Monday, December 7, 2009

Commentary: Teresa Sayward’s ‘Us Versus Them’

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who last winter got her wish with the closing of local campgrounds by the DEC, is working hard on her plan to privatize more of the Adirondacks. In a recent opinion piece sent to local media entitled “Preserving The Rights of Adirondack Families,” Sayward argued that the Willsboro mining operation NYCO Minerals should be given permission to mine 250 acres of the Jay Mountain Wilderness, the smallest wilderness area in the Adirondacks.

NYCO built the world’s largest wollastonite mine and processing facility in Sonara, Mexico in 1997, so they can’t be too concerned with American jobs, but that is exactly Sayward’s pitch for the required amendment to the State constitution. “Without this amendment,” she says, “future operations at NYCO could be shortened by many years.” NYCO’s Chairman Jay Moroney told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that handing over the Forest Preserve lands to private mining company “could provide an extension of life to [their] operation.” How long? Five to nine years, according to Moroney.

I suppose the lack of wisdom in that plan is obvious, but what really gets me is Sayward’s divisive attack on her neighbors whose future she claims is “grim” thanks to late-arriving environmentalists. “My family, friends and neighbors are being forced out of existence and few seem to care,” Sayward says in a classic “us locals are being oppressed by them newcomers” argument.

Sayward’s opinion piece targeted her neighbors who support Protect the Adirondacks, the environmental conservation organization that began in 1901—nearly 110 years ago. “When people first began discovering the Adirondacks, we carried their packs, cut their trees, built their homes, dug their ditches, labored in their mills, taught their children, healed their sick and welcomed them like family” Sayward writes. “Most have become our friends and our neighbors, but those who came with their own agenda have stood Judge and Jury.”

I’ve come to expect a lot of “common man” rhetoric from politicians, but Sayward is so far off the mark it’s disgraceful—she misstates her own connections to the region and insults her neighbors as outsiders.

In the past two months the Adirondack community lost two people Teresa Sayward apparently saw as enemies, Clarence Petty of Coreys, Canton and Saranac Lake and Nellie Staves of Tupper Lake. Both were avid supporters of the Forest Preserve, the Adirondack Park, and Protect the Adirondacks. Both, then, according to Sayward’s twisted logic, were in part responsible for her “family, friends and neighbors . . . being forced out of existence.” Combined, Staves and Petty had more then 160 years of Adirondack experience under their belts.

As far as I can tell, Sayward didn’t even live in the Adirondack Park until the 1972 when Willsboro was brought within the Blue Line. Sayward lived in Connecticut in 1960s before moving to Willsboro.

So what about Sayward’s family? If she is only a part-time Adirondacker, surely her family comes from the Adirondack Park? Surely they were some of the Adirondack guides, loggers, carpenters, ditch diggers, mill hands, teachers, or doctors she claims they were right? Well – no, they weren’t. In fact, only Sayward’s mother lived inside the Blue Line, and only late in life.

Teresa Sayward’s father Joseph Riley, whose family was apparently from Willsboro, died at least 20 years before that town was added to the park in 1972. Sayward’s mother, Beatrice Garrow, was born in Plattsburgh in 1917 the daughter of William and Rose (D’Amour) Garrow.

So Sayward should lay off the hateful “us locals versus them outsiders” nonsense. Environmental conservation, supported and encouraged by those who live here, have helped shape the Adirondack way of life for 125 years. Sayward’s home was only included (apparently against her will) in 1972, if anything, that makes her the late-arriving outsider trying to impose her will.

 

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




19 Responses

  1. Will Doolittle says: