Dave Mason and Jim Herman of Adirondack Futures address members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Nov. 5.
The group Adirondack Futures brought their vision of what the park can become to the floor of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Nov. 5.
Dave Mason and Jim Herman presented the results of a study their organization had completed to members of the board, saying that there needs to be a balance in the Adirondack Park in order for it to thrive.
“The big question is the balance between protecting the environment and building the economy,” Herman said. “Our environment cannot be healthy and maintained if the economy fails in the park. We need to have public lands for recreation and the private lands for sustainability.”
Herman said that over 500 people participated in surveys and workshops to help them come up with their findings. Mason said that those who particated represented a range of people from both inside and outside the park, residents and tourists, longtime residents and newcomers.
“This was an attempt to look at the park and all of its various issues,” Mason said. “The whole park includes the communities and they should be as big of a draw as the forest preserve.”
Mason said that they found six areas to research: a wild park, usable park, sustainable life, Adirondack County, post big government solutions and an Adirondack State Forest. Out of those, Mason said that the usable life and useable park options were the most well received.
“Sustainable life was the most desirable option in all of the meetings that we had with people,” Mason said. “It was on top of the list of desirability and attainability. A usable park was the second most popular.”
Herman said that self reliance is a key to a sustainable park.
“The whole idea is that we can become more self reliant,” he said. “We can have more of our money stay in the park and increase our economy without increasing our people, and we can lower our carbon footprint.”
Herman also talked about tourism.
“The tourism industry in the Adirondack Park is old and there has not been many upgrades,” he said. “There are not the amenities today here that visitors want. We need to attract a more diverse set of visitors. All these things mean that we need to change access in the forest preserve and have new kind of amenities in our communities.”
When it came to jobs, Herman said that the park has to take advantage of new technology, like broadband internet, to promote not only tele-business but education.
“This plan does emphasize strengthening our communities,” Herman added. “We want them to be vibrant and thriving and we want them to attract new people to the park and we want them to be welcoming. Slight changes in zoning and APA regulations that allows for more clustering development that keeps things closer to the hamlets. Its time to stop talking about shutting down schools throughout the park and talk about networking the schools together.”
“It has made a big difference for our school system and it has made a big difference in the town,” Keene Supervisor William Ferebee said. “People have been able to stay here longer and spend their money locally.”
Herman said that a lot of their approach is in place with the North Country Economic Development Council.
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava was reluctant to embrace the report.
“The facts are since the inception of the Adirondack park, only three manufacturing jobs have moved into the Adirondack Park,” Scozzafava said. “What the rest of the country has been going through, we have been going through for the last 40 years. The big problem when the bridge closed was that our constituents have to travel to Vermont for a job. Our tax base remains stagnant and why does it, because it is so hard to try and build a home here. Let's deal with all of the facts here. Our young people are leaving here. How do we retain people who have lived here for generations.”
“We have tried to put together a vision of the kind of business that we can attract here and the kind of business that can grow here,” Herman said.
“Yes, there has not been the growth and we have to fix that,” Mason added.
For more, visit the website adkfutures.org.