Thursday, 18 January 2018 17:10

Great Sacandaga Film Makes Big Splash

SARATOGA COUNTY – Peter Pepe, a Queensbury filmmaker, easily remembered what was in the box when he pulled it out of storage almost two years ago.

It contained materials Pepe had compiled in the 1980s, when he started collaborating with others to reveal the Great Sacandaga Lake’s history in a documentary.

He had recorded interviews with about 20 people, who shared memories of the Sacandaga Valley before it was permanently flooded by construction of the Conklingville Dam in the northern Saratoga County Town of Hadley.

But that initial filmmaking effort “fizzled out,” Pepe explained last week, noting how he “always wanted to finish the story.”

Pepe “said a little prayer,” since he perceived finding the box again as a sign that a new collaboration was possible. “Then I get a phone call from Lauren Roberts,” he added.

Roberts, the Saratoga County historian, expressed an interest in telling the exact same story. Pepe indicated that she was motivated by previous contacts with a retired schoolteacher who had experience in underwater archeology. 

Together Pepe and Roberts wrote the narrative script for “Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga,” a new documentary that was produced utilizing some of his original footage from 30 years ago.

“This is a project that a lot of people are interested in,” reported Roberts, who organized the first public viewings in November to much fanfare. In the last two months, she said, thousands of DVD copies of the film have been sold.

Saratoga County Director of Planning Jason Kemper joined Roberts and Pepe in producing “Harnessing Nature.”  

“I think my generation or those around my age don’t have a clear understanding of the sacrifices made by those in the Sacandaga Valley when the lake was created,” Kemper offered in an email. “Hopefully this film illustrates the sacrifices made and the tremendous benefit the lake has provided both in terms of flood control as well as recreationally.”

In her own email, Roberts elaborated: “Peter, Jason and I worked on this project for approximately 18 months and conducted many interviews, visited locations around the lake and filmed in all four seasons. As someone who has lived on the lake all my life, I truly enjoyed this project and found it to be a very compelling story.”

Except for two submerged bridges, Pepe emphasized, “there’s nothing under water” in the Great Sacandaga Lake, despite “urban legends” to the contrary that still persist. 

Moreover, he said, the original dam planners did not foresee the “strong bonds” that would develop among property owners on the sizable lake that was created.

“It’s not as commercialized as Lake George,” Pepe observed. “Sacandaga is basically a great big neighborhood.”    

This week, Roberts organized two viewings of “Harnessing Nature” at Hadley-Luzerne High School: the first at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18 and a second at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Film viewings in the school’s Alice Harris auditorium are free, but anyone interested in attending is required to pre-register by visiting or calling 518-696-2112.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, Roberts showed a clip of “Harnessing Nature” and briefly discussed it as part of her regular report to the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. 

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond praised Roberts for thusly preserving the lake’s history and informing area residents.

“I really urge everyone to look at this film,” Raymond said.

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