WARRENSBURG - In an unusual show of unity, Adirondack-area politicians, environmentalists and state officials lobbied Thursday to preserve the traditional color scheme of signs designating landmarks, waterways and natural attractions in the Adirondacks and the Catskills.
For about 80 years, those roadside informational signs in the Catskill and Adirondack preserves have traditionally been brown with yellow letters, unlike other areas in the state and across the nation.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has periodically sought to have those traditional signs replaced with new ones in the color scheme for national park markers - brown with white letters.
Wednesday, a meeting about the signs with the FHWA included more than 40 people from the state Dept. of Transportation, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, regional politicians, the Adirondack Park Agency - and the Adirondack Park agency's nemesis, the APA Local Government Review Board - and representatives of environmental groups including Protect the Adirondacks.
They all urged the FHWA not to require replacement of the familiar brown-and-yellow color scheme.
"The Federal Highway Administration has an overriding concern that they like to have consistency nationally," said Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe, who also serves as Executive Director of the APA Local Government Review Road. "But the yellow-on-brown signs really are identified with the Adirondacks."
Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles said that periodically, the state Dept. of Transportation has been able to convince FHWA officials to retain the brown-and-yellow signs by successfully obtaining a waiver from the federal standards.
"I don't know anyone who thinks white on brown is a good idea," he said. "We can win this."
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said that replacing thousands of signs through the Adirondacks and Catskills - just to change the color of the letters - was a frivolous, costly idea.
"This is another governmental waste of money that's expensive to taxpayers."
But state DOT Regional II Director Michael Shamma said that the FHWA was re-drafting their national standards as they do periodically, and they were likely to listen to the opinions of area officials.
The brown and yellow signs have been used since the 1920s by the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation to designate their facilities as well as natural landmarks. This DEC color scheme pre-dates all national parks, he said.
"Absolutely no one would deny that the Adirondacks and Catskills are very special places and those signs are part of our cultural heritage," he said.
Monroe said he hopes that the FHWA officials respect that heritage.
"They should get the information out to the public then solicit opinion, rather than the normal governmental routine in which they determine policy, then seek public input.