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As an airborne radio-intercept operator for the Air Force, the closest Bill LaPoint came to a degree in forestry was playing touch football with students from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse in 1959. After graduating from high school, Bill immediately enlisted in the service, married the love of his life, Doris, and was stationed in Syracuse where he studied Russian. Despite a lack of formal forestry education, however, Bill has successfully managed two wooded properties, one which he no longer owns, using his self-education and help from DEC and his friends.
After 44 months touring Europe with the Air Force, Bill returned home to New York in 1963 and began working production at Reynold’s Metals and later Corning Glass. It was soon after his return home that Bill and his wife Doris, purchased a home in Stockholm, NY in 1965. Bill then went on to work as an electrician for General Motors and SUNY Canton prior to retiring, while Doris remained at home, supervising the household and raising their three children. Now that Michael, Chantelle and Melinda have grown and moved on, Doris spends time volunteering in patient care at the local hospital.
The LaPoint’s continue to live in the same house where their children grew up, though they have purchased additional land and now own 2.5 acres of the surrounding area. Bill and Doris raised all of their own pork, chicken and beef while the children were growing up. Using his own harvested logs, Bill constructed a wooden floor for their barn, which housed between 18 and 20 cows. They also cultivated their own fruit and vegetable garden that now includes 14 varieties of tomatoes. While the LaPoint’s originally raised the food products to make ends meet, they now donate the majority of it to senior citizen housing.
Two decades after moving into their home, the LaPoint’s purchased an additional 397-acre property, three miles away, through a sealed tax-bid deal. After donating some of the land for a new church expansion and parking lot, giving away five acres to his nephew, and selling additional land to help pay taxes, Bill was left with the 350 acres that he still manages today.
The property had been heavily logged 25 years prior and thus was covered in brush when it came into Bill’s possession. Bill quickly contacted Charlie Porter, a DEC forester, who helped him create a management plan for the area and instructed him on where to harvest firewood. Today, Bill and his friends cut as much as 30 cords of wood each year. Moreover, the Knapp’s Station Tree Farm, named for the founding family in the area, has become a certified tree farm with the help of Mike Farrell and Don Brown, both formerly with DEC.
At present, Bill has 43 different species of trees between his home and Knapp’s Station, including black walnut, hickories and native apple trees, which are maintained as food for wildlife. There are approximately 60 apple trees on his home property that Bill plans to transfer to Knapp’s. Many of the trees he started from seeds and are still fairly small, so they require a perimeter fence for protection. Bill has also planted a variety of exotic species on both his home and Knapp’s, including Ohio buckeye, a Crimson Oak from Georgia and various trees from Tennessee. Bill also successfully raised a Blue Spruce that he acquired during Nebraska’s Arbor Day, while visiting for an Air Force reunion.
Prior to introducing the exotic trees onto his property, however, Bill thoroughly researches the species. Very cautious about invasive species, Bill also plants the seeds and/or saplings at his house prior to transplanting them to Knapp’s to make certain they will not cause any problems. Despite his numerous successes, however, many of the exotic trees Bill attempts to grow will not germinate in upstate New York due to the climate.
While Bill spends much of his time planting new tree species on his two properties, he also spends a considerable amount of time battling with buckthorn, ferns and honeysuckle at Knapp’s. Bill uses a power pole-saw to cut off all the tops of the unwanted plants, after which Peter Smallidge of Cornell Cooperative Extension performs flame-based research. Last June, with help from CCE and Cornell University. Bill hosted a NYFOA woodswalk concerning invasive species and how they have affected his property.
Though Doris is not as involved with the forestry activities of the property, she does keep busy creating balsam pillows. While riding around on their 4-wheeler, Bill and Doris harvest three or four bushels of balsam, which they later feed through the chipper. Doris then stuffs the balsam chips in small pillows made of special outdoor fabric. Though it is usually a 10-hour ordeal, Doris enjoys the entertainment while on the tree farm and especially enjoys giving away the pillows as Christmas presents.
While at the Knapp’s Station Tree Farm, Bill, Doris and some company stay at "The Great Escape." A 2-story, 24-square foot cabin, the Escape was built after Bill’s friend, the late Bud Allison, declared the need for a suitable cabin to stay in while fraternizing on the property. With the help of Bud and Tex Matthys, also deceased, Bill began construction in 2002, using logs harvested from Knapp’s. Though the cabin has been completed for some time, the 2nd floor has yet to be used and is jokingly referred to as the honeymoon suit. Nearby, Bill has also built an outhouse and the "Toy Shed," which houses his 4-wheeler, woods trailer and tractor for overnight storage when he is working there.
Back on the home property, Bill has also constructed an active solar panel. Having read and been intrigued by a number of articles regarding solar energy, Bill ordered the necessary parts from New Hampshire and then assembled the panel near his house. The renewable energy is now used to heat the house’s water. Initially, Bill became interested in alternative energy as a result of Dutch elm disease. As diseased elms were being cut down and dumped into old pits and ravines, Bill decided to make use of the logs by installing a woodstove in his home.
As a strong advocate of renewable energy and critic of dependency on foreign oil, Bill is also a member of the St. Lawrence County Energy Task Force. As part of the task force, Bill participates in workshops regarding house weatherization, renewable energy and energy conservation. In addition, Bill is Vice Chairman for the BRSL Resource Conservation Development Council, which focuses on conservation, recreation, forestry and farming. As chairman of NYFOA’s Northern Adirondack Chapter and covering 6 counties, Bill focuses on the forestry—working with invasive species and renewable energy. Furthermore, Bill is an Officer of the Elks and a member of the American Legion.
As a member of the Northern Adirondack Chapter of NYFOA, Bill not only hosts woodswalks, but he also co-hosts chainsaw workshops. In the future, however, Bill hopes to spend less time in meetings and more time in the garden on his home property and on the Knapp’s Station Tree Farm.
Bill enjoys forest management because it makes for quality timber growth and wildlife habitat, as well as results in an excellent by-product: firewood. Bill has many roads and trails through Knapp’s that he and Doris enjoy touring year-round. The couple finds that they see something different on each tour. As the home of wildlife, Bill toils diligently to manage his property so that it is in a favorable condition for all of the resident creatures.
"Any day in the woods is good for the body, mind and soul," according to Bill.
PO Box 541 Lima, NY 14485
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