The State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has issued recommendations for expanding recreation opportunities within the Great South Woods (GSW) in a report to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
This report highlights the potential for recreational use within a large region of the Adirondack Park including all of Hamilton County and parts of Essex, Warren, Herkimer, Fulton and Saratoga counties. The GSW area covers two million acres, including 20 individual Forest Preserve management units.
The GSW Strategy process was designed and led by SUNY ESF in collaboration with representatives from DEC, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. The GSW team conducted recreation planning at a landscape scale, beyond the boundaries of individual management units. It was designed to engage communities and stakeholders in the design of a destination-based system of trails and infrastructure that could stimulate economic activity while protecting the Adirondack Park’s ecosystems and wild character. Development of the report included an 18-month participatory process that involved more than 300 individuals that attended public workshops and meetings held across the GSW planning area.
“ESF developed strategies and recommendations that emphasized public participation and prioritized local knowledge and community-generated ideas to inform recreation planning at multiple scales,” an announcement sent to the press said. “The GSWs effort represents a new model and opportunity for recreation planning that facilitates a high degree of public engagement to gather local knowledge and community ideas to inform planning, design, and implementation steps.”
To facilitate future public engagement with the GSW Strategy, and to promote the critical next steps of design and implementation, ESF has partnered with AdirondackAtlas.org to share the GSW Recommendations and related map data online at GreatSouthWoods.AdirondackAtlas.org.
The objectives of the GSW planning effort were to identify opportunities and feasible means to, in the words of the press announcement:
•Optimize the potential of the GSW to provide a wide spectrum of outdoor recreational activities available on Forest Preserve, DEC easement, municipal and private lands across the region;
•Establish a new community-based land-and-water trail and lodging system that would strengthen community linkages to each other and to nearby Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands;
•Better develop front-country areas of state lands for improved access and greater enjoyment of diverse –including motorized – recreational activities;
•Improve protection of back-country areas of state lands in their primitive, wild condition while improving trail systems for heightened enjoyment of self-powered recreation.
ESF received $250,000 over a two year time period and included input from the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, the Adirondack Park Agency and other Park Stakeholders.
The report contains many recommendations for enhanced connectivity and access, including maps that depict new, conceptual destination based hiking routes and other outdoor recreational facilities.
DEC is now expected to review the report and work with communities, recreation interests and other Park stakeholders to refine and implement the proposals.
To view a copy of the Great South Woods report, visit DEC’s website.