The proposed APA Classification map released last week for the Essex Chain of Lakes sustains some key recreational priorities for Essex and Hamilton counties, particularly within the five towns that represent the Upper Hudson River Hub while providing protections for the most sensitive environmental areas.
The establishment of a Wild Forest designation for key portions of the property will enhance recreational connections between our towns, and therefore economic opportunity for all of them. Plus, as we sustain the opportunity to connect these communities to the Forest Preserve, we cater to a broad group of recreational users and tie in our businesses back to the opportunity of the natural resource.
Of particular importance to our communities has been:
- Connecting the communities directly together, for recreational opportunities from mountain biking to snowmobiling
- Assuring the general public access which is close and proximate to the Essex Chain, the Cedar River, and the Hudson River
The packet released appears to assure the opportunities for those priorities and much more!
The recommendation represents a tremendous amount of hard work, collaboration and compromises on the parts of the local communities, stakeholders, the APA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The result is a classification map which appears to weave together a rich maze of public comments, while achieving natural resource protection and fostering future economic opportunity.
Breaking down traditional parochial boundaries and thinking is not easy, particularly in the Adirondacks. The efforts that these five towns have made to come together, plan together and, frankly, stand together, should be applauded and emulated going forward. The local governments deserve particular credit for their efforts to invite public input through community meetings, to foster productive dialogue through group planning exercises and, yes, to take the time to listen and understand the positions of those with differing views.
When it comes to the Adirondacks being heard, this stands as a great success. It would appear that the State Agencies have been listening to all of us, as have Elected Officials right up to Governor Cuomo. It must be noted, that Governor Cuomo’s willingness to come to the Park yet again, and listen to the concerns of the people involved, deserves our deep gratitude. Beyond that, Governor Cuomo demonstrated a deep understanding of Adirondack Park dynamic, when he suggested that Adirondack leaders should be talking more directly to each other. Governor Cuomo’s view, that there existed an opportunity here, to respect the highest priority needs of the towns and the highest priorities of the environmental constituencies, may be about to play out, for the betterment of the Adirondack Park.
Did our communities and constituents get everything we wanted in the proposed Essex Chain designation? Of course not! Nor should anyone have expected that one parcel of land could ultimately be classified in a way that would allow it to be everything for everyone. But the opportunities that could soon be before Essex and Hamilton Counties to provide unparalleled recreational opportunities and spur important new economic activity are exciting and historic, and set the stage for a much brighter future for our communities.
Essex and Hamilton counties are the only two counties located entirely within the Adirondack Park, and represent more than 2.4 million of the Park’s total 6 million acres. Adirondack Park. Even more significant, roughly 45 percent of Essex County and roughly 65 percent of Hamilton County are made up of state Forest Preserve land.