An effort latter this month hopes to gather public input about how to diversify and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the what organizers are calling the “Great South Woods” – a more than 2 million-acre area of public and private lands in the southern Adirondack Park that includes parts of Oneida, Herkimer, Hamilton, Fulton, Saratoga, Warren, and Essex Counties.
The driving forces behind this new initiative have been Bill Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).
The Great South Woods initiative will begin with an open public meeting 5:30 to 8:30 pm, Wednesday, December 17th, at the Lake Pleasant Central School in Speculator.
According to a press release issued today:
“DEC has sponsored the Great South Woods (GSW) initiative with the goal of creating a destination-based system of trails and recreation assets to stimulate economic activity while protecting the region’s unparalleled natural resources and wild character. ESF will facilitate the participatory process to engage local knowledge about how best to connect recreation destinations and communities through recreation infrastructure.
“The project will develop a new strategic vision for recreation infrastructure across the vast Great South Woods region, where nearly two of every three acres is State land, and where a diversity of natural settings remain an untapped resource for local communities and tourism-oriented businesses. The new initiative will generate a digital map-based inventory of existing and potential land and water trails and associated recreation infrastructure, as well as lodging facilities and other amenities currently available or needed to support recreational visitors. The process will draw on the knowledge, ideas and priorities of local residents and visitors, as well as guides, outfitters, recreationists, business owners and other stakeholders across the southern region of the Park. Digital and online mapping tools will help to gather and analyze this information, in order to generate new ideas and options for regional recreation planning.”
Statements accompanying the announcement of the initiative signaled the support of Farber, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, APA Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich, and Dr. Colin Beier, project leader for ESF. Bill Farber’s statement called it a “unique opportunity to integrate community planning with natural resource planning”. “I explain this project to others as our chance to plan towards a sustainable tourism economy in the Park,” he said.
A Great South Woods kick-off meeting is scheduled for December 17th in Speculator. According to the announcement:
“The public is invited to learn about this effort and contribute their knowledge and ideas about existing and potential recreation trails and destinations. This meeting will be followed by workshops in individual communities across the region, from January through March, to brainstorm about ways to increase connectivity, diversify recreation opportunities, and improve recreation settings in both the less remote ‘front-country’ areas near communities and transportation corridors, and the core “back-country” areas that offer remoteness and solitude. All information gathered will be combined with existing data to ‘map out’ a variety of options for new recreation opportunities in the GSW. After sharing these initial results with communities, the project will formulate recommendations for a destination-based trail system that ties public lands to the communities in the region and helps to better connect communities to each other.”
For more information about the GSW project and the participatory process, visit the ESF website at www.esf.edu/aec/greatsouthwoods.