Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the latest phase of New York State’s acquisition of 69,000 acres to the State Forest Preserve, land formerly owned by Finch Pruyn Company.
He announced the addition of 8,451 acres located in Fulton, Hamilton Warren and Essex counties, as well as $875,000 in available grants for projects to develop sites within the Adirondack Park and further position the region as a world-class tourism and recreation destination.
“We strongly support the governor’s vision that these lands should provide broad recreational opportunities for all recreational users,” Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Bill Farber said. “This investment of funds from The Nature Conservancy assures that the towns have the opportunity to connect the recreational opportunities back to their local economies.”
Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Randy Douglas said, “We in Essex County are very happy that Gov. Cuomo has stood true to his word once again in providing funding that will improve the economic climate in our small rural towns within Essex County. This $875,000 will help improve the quality of the lands and help us promote their natural beauty. I can’t thank the governor enough for his vision in helping us make the North Country a worldwide tourist attraction.”
The lands acquired will protect miles of waterways and open spaces, the governor said. To better improve the recreational and economic opportunities available, the $875,000 in grants will fund hiking, horseback riding trails, biking, snowmobiling and connector trails, as well as smart growth planning in the region.
Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation Joe Martens said the funds will help the region grow.
“Time and time again Gov. Cuomo has demonstrated his commitment to bettering the Adirondack Park and increasing opportunities for growth in the North Country’s economy and tourism industry,” he said. “These grants will strengthen the connection between local communities and State Forest lands in the heart of the Adirondack Park and help municipalities take advantage of all these extraordinary lands have to offer.”
The state will pay $5.7 million to acquire the tracts from The Nature Conservancy, using the state’s Environmental Protection Funds.
Already, the state has completed two acquisition phases totaling 30,037 acres. The 14 new parcels contain miles of rivers and streams, ponds, wildlife habitat and trails, and offer exceptional opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, cross country skiing and mountain biking.
New York’s Natural Heritage Trust, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy and state Department of Environmental Conservation, is offering grants to local municipalities to support the implementation of projects that will enhance public access to the acquired land.
In addition, EPF grants will be available to advance smart growth principles of economic development and environmental protection.
The grants include:
• $500,000 for Adirondack Park Upper Hudson Recreation Hub Grants program projects, including: seasonal shuttle service for hikers, bikers and paddlers; trailhead parking and waterway access on municipal lands; local infrastructure that supports such recreation uses as mountain biking, horse trail riding, snowmobiling and hiking; connector trails; hut-to-hut accommodations; guide services; and visitor orientation signs, apps and brochures. These grants are being funded by TNC and will be awarded through a Request for Proposals (RFP) to be announced this week in the NYS Contract Reporter and also on the DEC, TNC and NHT websites;
• $300,000 from the EPF for the Adirondack Smart Growth grant program will support key projects to build on existing smart growth plans, including capital projects and community development initiatives that foster sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability; and
• $75,000 to support paddling events, which builds on the success of the 2013 Adirondack Challenge, which led to increased tourism across the region.
A request for applications is expected to be released in early spring.
Assemblyman Dan Stec said, “This funding will provide our local governments the opportunities to promote economic development and to enhance recreational opportunities for the residents and visitors of the North Country. Tourism is the economic engine for the Adirondacks.”
TNC Adirondack Chapter Executive Director Michael Carr said, “Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, New York is protecting properties with exceptional conservation values and making them available to the public for hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing and other popular outdoor pursuits. These special properties include forests just north of the City of Saratoga Springs as well as tracts in the heart of the Adirondack Park. The Conservancy looks forward to continuing to work with local communities, regional tourism offices, and state agencies to unlock the potential for these spectacular lands to play a new role in the park’s outdoor recreation and tourism economy.”
The tourism industry is projected to have added 24,800 jobs in 2013, a 3.1 percent increase from 2012, which double the national average. In total, leisure and hospitality is projected to have finished the year with 818,700 jobs, making tourism the third fastest growing job sector in New York State.
For additional information or to register for the program, visit the New York State Grants Reform website at www.grantsreform.ny.gov