A grassroots group that formed at the request of state Senator Betty Little has issued a series of recommendations that target economic growth in the Adirondack Park.
The task force convened last year after the birth of the Adirondack Caucus - a collection of state lawmakers representing communities either wholly or partially within the Blue Line.
Jim LaValley is a member of the Blue Line Strategy Task Force and a realtor from Tupper Lake. He's also chairman of ARISE - Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy.
He says the task force was charged with reviewing and understanding the economic challenges faced by in-park communities and consists of a diverse group of individuals representing both environmental and economic interests.
"The final report that was issued a couple weeks ago to our state legislators contained some clear recommendations that we hope they will look at seriously and see to it that they get implemented," LaValley said.
Those recommendations, he adds, include consolidating state services within the park, as well as the establishment of an Adirondack Fund which would support environmental initiatives and help modernize communities.
Additionally, LaValley says the task force is looking to update the role of the state Adirondack Park Agency's economic affairs assistant, the goal being to promote a new focus on community revitalization efforts.
The task force also calls for Adirondack-specific programs relating to job creation and small business investment.
LaValley says the Blue Line Strategy Task Force wants to promote the notion that the economy and the environment can co-exist.
"The issue is you always have groups on either extreme that go too far in one direction," he said. "The Blue Line group has acknowledged that we've done real well with 30 years of environmental regulation. But we've done a terrible job with economic stability and improvement in our area. We need to recognize, though, that one does not have to be exclusive of the other."
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward notes that developing economic strategies catered specifically to the Adirondacks is important, as the park is regulated in a different manner than the rest of the state.
She adds that the Adirondack Caucus will bring the recommendations issued by the Blue Line Strategy Task Force to a meeting with Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy later this month.
Sayward hopes Duffy will understand that in the Adirondacks, tourism is a matter of economic development.
"Because previously, most of the economic development money circulating in New York state is not as easy to tap into for tourism-types of projects - developing hotels, motels, restaurants - the sort of thing that's important to us in the North Country," she said. "And that's one of the things we're going to try to make sure is recognized - particularly here in the park where we depend so much on tourism."
LaValley says the task force is essentially finished with its work at this point.
"The group was assigned a job that had a term limit to it," he said. "We began late summer, early fall with the intent of getting a report to the legislature at the beginning of the new year. We're basically done, unless our lawmakers decided they need further information. The rest is up to them."
The Blue Line Strategy Task Force also included former APA Chairman John Collins, Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe, and Jim McKenna of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau.