Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adirondack Park Re-emerging on Google Maps

The Adirondack Park has not quite returned to Google Maps, but something is taking shape: the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

On October 8 we noticed that the green shape representing “Adirondack State Park” was reduced to a little slice over the Cranberry Lake area. Users let Google know about the error through its “Report a Problem” link. As it incorporates user data, Google is apparently trying to restore the park, but it’s not all there yet.

One commenter suggested that the map distinguish between public and private land, which Google is now doing. It’s good to see state land shaded green, though not all tracts are labeled and Google apparently can’t tell Wilderness from Wild Forest. Also missing is the park boundary and the words “Adirondack Park.” (The boundary in the image above was drawn by Adirondack Almanack for context.)

This is a complicated place. Some private landowners and Adirondackers say the “park” label makes the uninitiated think that nobody lives here, or that all land is open to the public. Niki Kourofsky of Adirondack Life had some funny anecdotes in this fall’s Collector’s Issue (“Your Place or Mine?”) about residents who’ve found people picnicking on their lawns, and visitors who ask rangers, “What time does the park close?” Even though it’s not all government land like Yellowstone, this region is still distinct and has been designated a park for 117 years. Tourism-dependent businesses that promote the Adirondack name and conservationists who have invested more than a century in the ecological integrity of both private and public lands would surely like to see “Adirondack” somewhere over this part of the map.

It was also suggested that Google show conservation easements, as this Adirondack Park Agency map does. Conservation easements are voluntary restrictions on use of private land, usually preventing development to retain natural conditions. But since every easement is different and public access is determined tract by tract, another land designation might just confuse things even more. The state and private conservation organizations have acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of easements in the Adirondacks over the past three decades. While so far the legal agreements seem to be keeping timberlands intact and are working well for landowners, from a public recreation standpoint they are a tangle. The writer Neal Burdick put it well a few years ago when he said that instead of the old metaphor of a “patchwork quilt” of public and private lands, the Adirondack Park might better be called a “bowl of spaghetti.”

Map from a Google screen capture; park boundary drawn by the Almanack

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Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




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