Friday, July 23, 2021

Long Lake/Raquette Lake Hiking and Paddling Challenge

owl's head mountain, part of a new Long Lake challengeLong Lake Parks and Recreation has launched a Hiking and Paddling Challenge that includes a variety of outings in the region stretching to Raquette Lake. There are 24 activities on the card with over 50 miles of hiking, 3 mountains, one fire tower, one Adirondack Great Camp and nine paddles enabling participants to achieve a variety of patches. 

The challenge is modeled on Bingo. Participants will complete rows of five activities and there is also a choose your own adventure spot in the middle. There are three patches available to earn, based on the number of rows completed. For one row, receive the Dunning Cruiser Patch, for two or more rows, the Rondeau Rambler and for the entire card, the Sabattis Max patch. Each level is named after a notable Long Lake and Raquette Lake legends that knew the woods and waters of the area. 

Completed rows can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Hikes and paddles completed in 2020 will be eligible for this challenge. There will be a log of participants on the official web page located at

long lake slim pondComplete one row and you will be an Alvah Dunning Cruiser. Alvah Dunning was an experienced guide and hunter who wanted to live a simple life. He lived his life off fish and game and sharing his knowledge with sportsmen who traveled to the region in the 1800s. He moved around to avoid the influx of tourists visiting the Adirondacks newly developed tourist destinations. He lived in Blue Mountain Lake, then on to Raquette Lake where he made homes at Indian Point, Osprey Island, Brown’s Tract, and Golden Beach. Dunning starting hunting and trapping at the young age of six and guiding his first solo excursion at the age of 11 and died in 1906. 

Complete two or more rows of the challenge to become a Rondeau Rambler, named after Noah John Rondeau the hermit who lived in Cold River Country. Rondeau was an infamous Adirondack Hermit who built himself two cabins and several wigwams, and lived on trout, local game, and greens. He lived alone in Cold River City from 1929 until the blowdown of 1950 when he had to leave due to the forced closure of the area. 

If you complete the entire card you will be rewarded with a Sabattis Max patch named after Adirondack Guide and Long Lake legend, Mitchell Sabattis. Sabattis first came to Long Lake at the age of 8. Sabattis was known for his fearlessness and hunting prowess. He guided and fished in the woods of the Adirondacks and made Long Lake his home until he died in 1906. 

The selections of trails and paddles were made in collaboration with Long Lake outdoor enthusiasts Shane and Doree Holmes along with guidance, and suggestions from the NYSDEC Region 5 staff and area Forest Rangers offering feedback, guidance and suggestions. 

The goal of the challenge is to get everyone outside to recreate on trails and waterways they may not have otherwise discovered. Some adventures are short and easy with a variety of terrain, views and unique places along the way. 

Participants will be asked to keep track of when they complete their hikes and can submit for a patch as soon as one row is complete. This is not a year-round challenge as lakes and ponds freeze thereby making paddling impossible. There is no deadline or timetable associated with this card. Take as long as you need to complete the challenge. If you got outside in 2020 and already completed some of these tasks, feel free to document them to count toward your accomplishments. 

Some of the challenges utilize NYS DEC Conservation Easement lands and are not always open year-round and have restrictions. Participants are asked to check out the rules and regulations, and open dates. More details will be available on-line at Visitors will be directed to the Cedarlands Easement, John Dillon Park, County Line Flow Waterway Easement off of Route 28N. Please note that the Cedarlands Easement is only open from August 24th until June 24th, but paddling access to Mud Pond is open year-round. John Dillon Park is located on NYS Route 30 and open only during the summer months. 

For waterway challenges, any amount of paddling is acceptable. If it says paddle Long Lake or Raquette Lake, participants are welcome to choose their own adventure. It can be exploring a cove, the shoreline, and to spend as much or as little time on the water as desired. Please follow all NYS navigation laws, wear a life vest and beginners are encouraged to visit a local outfitter for a lesson on how to paddle safely. 

Many of the paddles listed have short carries from the car to the water, so be prepared to use some muscle to get the boat in the water. A log of those who complete the challenges will be posted at

While completing the tasks of the challenge everyone is asked to please adhere to the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace and take the pledge at 

Cards are available at the Long Lake Town Offices at 1130 Deerland Road in Long Lake, NY or area businesses in Long Lake, NY or Raquette Lake or it can be printed out from the website. Patches will be available for delivery in late August 2021. Participants can send a copy of the completed card to Town of Long Lake Challenge, PO Box 496, Long Lake, NY 12847 along with $5 per patch. 

Related Stories

Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at

28 Responses

  1. Maggie Jihan says:

    I really don’t get these “challenges”. Why do we need them? Seems to me it draws people into the park and onto the trails and waterways who don’t necessarily respect the wilderness nor care about all the lives therein. Instead, the challenges would seem to draw those looking for a patch, an award, a competition to win over others, something for their Insta, FB page, etc, just another selfie opportunity. Just another “thing” to acquire by a consumer. Don’t get me wrong, I want people to get out of their homes and towns and among the trees and waters… maybe the more who do, will hold onto their sanity a little more firmly in this era of overcrowding psychosis, perpetual war, civil unrest and impending Earth collapse. I just don’t see why we need these competitions, challenges, awards to bring people into the woods, things that in my mind only get in the way.

    Do they generate income for the DEC or the state otherwise? If so, is that kind of income really needed? Maybe it is, it wouldn’t surprise me. If so, surely there are other ways to generate income. This way seems unfriendly to the wilderness and those who seek a softer, gentler wilderness experience.

    • JohnL says:

      Wow. This appears to be the elusive, elitist North Country attitude I keep hearing about.

      • Boreas says:


        It is her comment on the article. What is yours? Insults and name-calling out of the gate without even addressing the comment or the article? How are personal attacks and political labels remotely helpful in initiating a civil discussion?

        • JohnL says:

          Thanks for weighing in Boreas. Always nice hearing from you. I simply commented on her comment. That’s what we do here. By the way, elitist means whatever you want it to mean. It’s not necessarily a negative comment, although in my case, it was.

  2. Maggie Jihan says:

    ROFLMAO, John. So I love the wilderness and hate cleaning up after the consumer types who don’t love the wilderness and only come for their badge and their insta opportunity. Hardly qualifies me as elitest. Dog forbid there should be any differences of opinion…which won’t be addressed with reason and courtesy but only with immediate, angry suppression. Big score for you, I guess…??? Whatever floats your tiny boat.

  3. JohnL says:

    Hope you didn’t hurt yourself ROFLYAO. Actually, your tone sounds like you’re more angry than laughing,
    So everyone who ‘answers’ this challenge will leave a mess and doesn’t give a crap about the experience?? They only come for the badge, etc etc. I’ll stand by my elitist comment. You have a nice day Margaret.
    P.S. How’d you know I have a tiny boat??

  4. Maggie Jihan says:

    Now the guy who didn’t bother to address my questions about the challenges but instead jumped straight into name-calling–a tactic he has stuck with–thinks *I need to be tone-policed. Have fun, John, you’ll have to carry on without me. Yyyaaaaawwwnnn.

    • Jim S. says:

      Getting people into the wilderness is the best way to get people to love and care about it. I have to agree with my old buddy John L. More challenges equals more people to eventually defend the wilderness.

  5. Maggie Jihan says:

    Jim, thanks for replying to my question with common courtesy. I appreciate that. Not sure why you mention that you “agree with my old buddy John L.”, and follow with your remark about challenges bringing more people to the wilderness, etc. He never mentioned anything like that. But whatever. Possibly you know more of your old buddy’s thoughts than he bothered to share with me.

    In any event, we’ll have to agree to disagree. There are ways to draw more people to the wilderness than competitions/challenges with little awards involved, which IMO only encourage people to think of the wilderness as an object created for our exploitation. I don’t see this engendering love for the wilderness or the desire to defend it. Clearly, you see it otherwise.

  6. Boreas says:

    I am typically against organized competitions in wilderness areas. But in reading the article twice I realized the difference between a challenge and a competition, and what this challenge is trying to accomplish. I have grown to oppose the challenge of the 46rs (although being an ancient 46r) because of the sensitivity of location and terrain it focuses on. But thinking about this particular challenge, it is much more benign.

    I wish the 46rs would look at this and change the requirements of their challenge. Perhaps allow ANY 25 high peaks, and another random 21 non-peak destinations of perhaps 10-20 mile round trips. Perhaps even require 5 of those to be overnight, backback trips or paddling trips. You could still be proud to be a “46r” without climbing all 46 peaks. It is a more benign challenge that would also help spread usage around somewhat, while promoting much more a well-rounded approach to enjoying the Park.

  7. Maggie Jihan says:

    Boreas, thanks for both of your comments. I appreciate your perspectives in each case.

    • Boreas says:


      Thanks. My knee-jerk reaction when seeing headlines about competitions and challenges is to view them as the same. Luckily I took the time to really think about this one. The more I read, the better I felt about it. Pretty benign yet still promoting the area.

  8. Maggie Jihan says:

    Boreas, I’m not sure if I agree with you or not…but your thoughtful and very civil comments have made me think more about it.

  9. JB says:

    At this point, finding a trail that is NOT part of a “challenge” is becoming very difficult–impossible if you consider that most now include a “pick your own” option (joking, kind of). I understand that these towns and counties want to bring in revenue, but I believe that these backcountry “challenges” are generally a bad idea. The entire mentality of it is a bad idea, even.

    Instead, maybe we need to rethink the whole “if a tree falls” American conservation argument. Our public wild lands in the continental United States are perhaps the most heavily trafficked anywhere in the world, and the Adirondack region may just have more of this type of marketing campaign going now than anywhere else. Overcrowding is not self-limiting; it imperative upon local governments to prevent it. People like me who are attracted to the region by the world class wilderness experience will stop coming and contributing to communities long-term and will be supplanted by daytrippers or overnighters who spend money by virtue of sheer numbers but do so in such a way that will not equivalently benefit the fabric of the community or the surrounding environment. Anybody hear of the story this week about the researchers who linked the prevalence of AirBnBs to increasing violent crime? Fabric of the community. Communities protect wildlands and each other, not tourists. It is not a matter of tourism being good or bad, it is a matter of priorities. Tourism-dependent economies can afford to prioritize their own communities while still staying on the map, as many towns in America are now learning post-COVID.

    It is strange to me that despite these observations, the argument and imperative here remains “we need more people to appreciate the wilderness or else”. In other places, Canada, western Europe, eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania–you name it–the attitude is quite often the complete opposite. The national park management will politely ask you not to share your experience on social media, or they will at least make it deliberately difficult to get permits. The number of people connected with those places who prefer it that way vastly outnumber those who do not. Plenty of people still come; the world does not end. In fact, I would argue that the world, those places and those people are all the better for it. Living fast and loose with all of this competition gets old.

  10. Maggie Jihan says:

    JB, THANK YOU. I’m not from around here, I came last year to live in the ADKs. I mostly lived around the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois, but also in other parts of the Northeast; I’m a pretty avid hiker/camper for most of my 60something years. Point being, it’s obvious to me that the ADKs are getting more than enough traffic, far more than the other places I’ve frequented. Boreas pointed out that a “challenge” is essentially kinder/gentler on the wilderness than a competition, and that may be true….but it still draws more people here than I think the wilderness can take without harm. Especially when often, and especially in particular places, there are already crowds coming through.

    I appreciate your taking the time to explain your perspective.

    • JB says:

      Maggie, I’m glad my comment was appreciated. Welcome to the Adirondack Park! It was significantly less crowded when I started settling in. Most do not realize how much has changed in the past 5-10 years. People assume that “eco-tourism” can do no harm. Botany is my specialty, thus I am no expert on the greatest effects wrought by the increased human footprint (e.g., noise and chemical pollution)–the effects on the ecosystem as a whole. But as a large mammal myself, I can say that it is certainly effecting me. And not too long ago, the underlying tenet behind the Park was widely agreed upon as preserving the “wilderness character” for the physical and psychological well-being of the citizens of New York state. So, our feelings on the matter must count for something to those tasked with carrying out the laws of this great land.

      On this kind of “challenge”: Back in the day, these things had much more benevolent (or benign, depending on how you look at it) origins. The first ones in the region were in fact put out for members of very small local clubs–community-building organizations, if you will. Now, of course, they are something quite different: marketing campaigns with little eye toward local people. Someone with maybe very harmless intentions dreams them up, then local governments, or those tasked therein with bringing in the money, put their resources into making them happen. But people aren’t always good at looking ahead. Things can get out of control. The High Peaks are the poster child of that.

      Yet, despite the increased problems facing the Park, the general sentiment towards the Adirondacks is starting to border on outright bizarre. Though, I guess we have been heading in this direction for a while; I can’t really blame anyone in particular. Upstate New York has become an increasingly strange place. We are too insular to gain the broad wisdom that the “global village” should have brought, yet too disconnected from each other to have any real sense of coherence and community that brings identity, stability and meaningful aspirations. We are so far from those possibilities that, if you draw a line through our factions and find its midpoint, you will now land on the Cuomo administration in its current, irrelevant state. The only true solutions lie far outside of that line, now in the realm of fatalism or magic. Anyway, I am still a believer. This place is still magic to me. Hopefully it can stay that way. This exchange shows if nothing else that people still care. I am hopeful and more so after reading your comment.

      • Maggie Jihan says:

        JB– your last comment helped me zero in on my underlying complaint about this new marketing strategy of the Park: commodification of wilderness.

        Well, it probably sounds way way out there, but I’ll say it anyway… we are where we are in terms of climate change and impending Earth collapse in great part due to our collective rendering of Earth and everything on it into mere objects. Objects, that is, inanimate things with no needs, rights, dignity, or belonging of their own; existing entirely for us to use or abuse as we see fit for our pleasure, profit or both. First we decide that everything is just an object over which we have the right to control, then we commodify it without a lot of regard (or none, judging by what I’ve seen from some people) for the Life that’s here.

        I suppose that since our culture is based on money to secure necessities, it seems benevolent or at least benign to draw more people here who have money they’ll spend here. That helps the locals, I guess. I just can’t help but think that we locals would be helped a lot more by the kinds of initiatives that focus more directly on needs-meeting. But I don’t guess people will think seriously about growing/gathering food locally until there’s no more grocery stores nor money to spend at them (for instance). No real change until the Usual Way is simply not available anymore.

    • Boreas says:


      Don’t take my word on what I feel are relatively benign hikes and paddles. Check out the Challenge’s website link above and read through the requirements. Many are on private easement lands (not wilderness), and not particularly remote or rarely visited areas. Some are on forest roads and boardwalks. Much of it is on water and not on trails.

      Will the Challenge increase usage of these areas? If successful, yes. But how do we nudge people away from the more sensitive and remote HPW without increasing usage elsewhere? That is the conundrum. I wouldn’t recommend pushing people into remote or sensitive Wilderness areas via a tool like this. And I do not believe this Challenge does this.

      It is difficult to envision a Park with decreasing numbers of visitors. If we want to steer people away from the most heavily-used and damaged areas, where do we send them? A shopping mall? The Whiteface Auto Road? Hopefully when the TL-LP multi-use trail is finished, it will create a place where some visitors can visit with much harm to the environment. But until then, we need to think about the problem as well as the solution. THAT, is the ultimate Challenge!

  11. Maggie Jihan says:

    Boreas– thanks for taking the time to review the particulars of the challenges created, and then sharing them here. I had not looked into it so fully. Little as I like the idea of attracting ever-more people into the Park–especially the day-tripping tourist type that JB mentioned, who are least likely to forge a bond with the region that is healthy for the wilderness OR the human residents–at least there is care being taken to steer those people as safely as possible for the Park.

    It’s still true though, as I opened my first comment with– I just don’t get it, these challenges and competitions. They don’t make sense to me and I don’t understand why they’re needed as a method to draw people to the Park. The badges and bingo element of it all seem silly to me, pitched to adults.

  12. JB says:

    I agree, Boreas, that Long Lake’s challenge could be more carelessly designed. Depending on how you look at it, you indeed could argue that destinations were chosen to keep people out of remote areas. However, checking some of these checkboxes will take people into some fairly remote areas. More likely, I think that the design criteria was to give people a variety of experiences and that, in this vein, they deliberately included some relatively remote destinations, some even outside of Long Lake’s town boundaries (I wonder if they asked for Indian Lake’s input?).

    That aside, I share your sentiment that no respectable organization should be directing mass marketing campaigns towards remote and sensitive areas. I disagree, however, about the path forward for dealing with overuse. The visitors who are utilizing overused places are not to blame; they are merely a symptom of an ideological disease that collectively plagues us, trickling down from the top of our fragmented Aidrondack bureaucratic pyramid. You chose the excellent words, “it is difficult to envision a Park with decreasing numbers of visitors.” And that is precisely the problem: why must we have such a myopic vision of ever increasing visitorship, never decreasing? Why is decreasing an exploding visitorship such a radical idea here? Elsewhere, this is the modus operandi of preservation, actively practiced in just about every potentially overcrowded preserve that I can think of. If we really must continue to think the way that we do, then we must acknowledge that we are taking an ideological stance towards preservation unique in all of the world, a stance that will soon leave us with little left to preserve.

    It could be argued that our different approach is necessitated by the fact the Adirondack Park is fairly unique, since many people here live interspersed with public lands. Again, overcrowding in places where many people live, some very similar to the Adirondack Park, has been addressed successfully throughout the world for thousands of years. The New York state government is even demonstrably aware of the basic design principles that are proven to succeed in dealing with predicaments like ours. For example, highway systems were once heavily congested in many major cities, which have since solved their problems. Urban design 101 states that, if a highway system is overcrowded, you do not divert traffic–this merely creates new problems elsewhere while the original highways still fill up. You also do not build new roads–this also creates additional induced demand while leaving the original problem intact. The solution is to take targeted measures to reduce the number of cars on the roads by directly discouraging it. People who must drive to meet basic needs–after all, people live and work in cities–will take on the additional burdens required of them to continue using the roads (usually carefully designed taxes and fees). Others will adapt. In protected wildlands, targeted measures are also the only reasonable means of reducing visitorship. However, in such places, where typically no people live nor work, these targeted measures often take the form of hard limits–for example, the complete closure to visitors this year of many parks in Ontario, Quebec, New Hampshire, etc. This can be done in the Adirondack Park–it is physically possible–but the aforementioned ideological problem of our own making makes this an unlikely reality for now.

    May I suggest another path forward? Soft limits. De-market the Park. Do the opposite of what Long Lake is doing. Many places worldwide are de-marketing, including some towns within the Park. The fact that most are unaware of this is evidence of the effectiveness of the strategy. If any mass-accessible wilderness has a future, this will be it. There are towns that once had active marketing campaigns that sure as hell do not now. Why spend money to attract and accommodate people when it will be a break-even endeavor at best, one that leaves towns perpetually chasing ever-receding economies of scale? This can become a vicious cycle into which many Park towns are obviously currently embedded.

    Where do the cars go when highways become decongested? People adapt. Where will the hikers (or the potential future hikers) go? People will adapt, just as they have adapted to hiking in large numbers. People do not need to hike, it is only advertising campaigns and challenges that give them the illusion that they do. And what we giveth we can taketh away, often quiet literally by doing nothing. That is the power of de-marketing.

    The problem is that government groups on all levels will be hesitant to go anywhere but forward into the overuse abyss. This gets back to what Maggie was saying–commodification. The Adirondacks is over-commodified by a long shot, more than most other places. I would argue that, yes, this is a systematic problem in American society in particular–but, the problem is acutely magnified here by the ultra-balkanization of the Adirondack Park. The state pays Adirondack public land taxes to the local governments in ways that I have not seen governments pay for any public lands anywhere else, ever. Thus, the state feels the need to “recoup” their investment, more so than, for example, the United States federal government would on federal lands. In turn, flooded with investment compounding the attractive nuisance created by the state lands, the towns are encouraged by default to grow right up to and beyond the ceiling of what is sustainable under the Adirondack Park Act and best environmental practice. Towns wholly within the Park are targeted in particular with additional incentive to “do the wrong thing” (environmentally speaking) by chamber-of-commerce-type groups like ROOST. Towns in counties that straddle the blue line are not party to this as much, it seems to me. I have no idea as to the reason for this, but I can speculate that maybe it has something to do with the fact that my taxes to the county are redistributed to towns and cities outside of the Park–thus, taking the spotlight and temptation away from hyping up these Park towns. This may seem odd, but, contrary to popular belief, the idea that “cities subsidize rural localities” is somewhere between an oversimplification and blatant fabrication. On the county level in “border counties” such as mine, it is in fact the Park towns, with low overhead, low-utilization second home owners, high property values and state land taxes, that subsidize the cities that have large enclaves of tax-exempt industrial and government properties and low-income neighborhoods that require more tax funding than they generate. Anyway, I am happy to pay up in exchange for this trade off–most of us are. But boy, oh boy do we really have to pay the piper in spades. It seems to me that the state has their work cut out for them in order to compensate for what is increasingly looking like a framework that is poorly suited to the ecosystems and people of the Park and the state of New York, and they need to start doing that work. We need bona fide leadership badly, and we definitely do not need more “challenges”.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree with most of what you say. However, politicians (at least good ones) mirror the wishes of their constituents. One could say a major confounding issue within the Park are its residents. Most parks don’t have residents (human) to keep happy. When created, the Park encircled and ensnared local economies and people who depended on logging, mining, and tourism. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been better to re-home the residents and make the Park and the FP uniform as in the NP model. But that didn’t happen.

      Residents here need to make a living. Extraction industries are no longer driving the economy. Now, tourism, service industries, second homes, and prisons are major players. I feel localities have the right to try to attract tourism to their area. Do I feel NYS should be forcing visitors down our throats? No. Is tourism good for the forests and waters? Usually not. It is essentially another extraction industry that has much potential to harm the FP.

      While I understand your concept of “de-marketing”, I think it is likely a non-starter with residents who ultimately would like to prosper – the sooner, the better. One needs to only look at the snowmobile issue that has been smoldering for 40-50 years. And that is just one source of recreation. Until us pesky residents are open to the concept of de-marketing and delayed gratification beyond our lifetime, I don’t see much changing.

  13. Maggie Jihan says:

    JB, thanks for all of that. Not many are inclined to think this all the way through from a fully-informed perspective, including the ability to compare the Park to other similar places with different policies. We need more of it. Not many are willing to see the Big Picture beyond their individual desires for fun and profit. Not that either one of those things is bad, we do need both–only that each have to be considered in terms of the health of the Whole if they will be supportive of, rather than destructive to that Whole…. which is the Park, and all Life it’s made of (including us).

    Some prefer not to hear a different point of view than their own. They resort to unproductive, adversarial knee jerk reactions like name calling (or, as on facebook, the derisive laugh emoji with no verbal reply at all) in a pitiful attempt to silence those they disapprove of. And they don’t seem to realize that these issues can and do impact their fun and profit, and are well worth thinking and talking about for their good as much as anyone else’s. Damning the newbies and tree-huggers may be a lot easier and more fun but there would be no Park for anyone if not for those of us who stood up in defense of Life and put a stop to acid rain, unlimited logging, toxic mining, inadequate septic systems poisoning our waterways, unlimited subdivision and private property development…. etc etc etc. I’ve often encountered an attitude that “enough damage has been done (by the environmentalists, DEC and APA) to our ADK lives, shut up and let us live as we please on our private (or ancestral) land.”

    On one hand I understand the attitude, few appreciate meddlers! Yet one might think by now that everyone would understand at least a little bit that the ADKs they love would not exist without the changes brought about by those who dared to meddle with the Big Picture and the Long View in mind. And you’d think everyone also might have some comprehension that stewardship of the land is an ongoing necessity–especially in a world with ever-expanding will to commodify everything and extract every last resource.

  14. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The problem is that government groups on all levels will be hesitant to go anywhere but forward into the overuse abyss.”

    > The same old stinking thinking in other words. All about economy, building up the town coffers………….and more!

    I’ve been reading what you wrote JB and have not the time nor the mind to read it all at present, nor do I have the time, nor the mind, to respond at present as I am utilizing a library computer and am caught up in other things, or trying to catch up, while on a clock. I don’t usually do this, but I copied and pasted what you wrote onto a word page and printed it out so I can go home and go over what you say, which I like by the way, and which reveals in you clear-headedness and vison which is not something we get too much anymore and so I suppose this is a thank you.

  15. JB says:

    Charlie, thank you, that is the highest compliment and makes me very happy to hear! I have contemplated submitting things to the the editor from time to time, considering how long some of my comments have gotten. But I really do enjoy the freedom of the comments here. This is often where I learn the most, and I am glad that others have similar feelings (including you Maggie and Boreas). What you have all said has got me thinking along some interesting lines, so I will share my thoughts again. (Charlie, in your honor, I will be not hold back on philosophizing. Sorry guys.)

    Boreas, I hear what you are saying because it has become the de facto war-cry of the people whom the State has emboldened–to represent what are supposed to be the interests of residents–by fast-tracking into leadership positions those who have glaring conflicts of interest. Evidently, the rationale for the State has been that the initial decades of growth of Adirondack Park Act authority must now be counterbalanced by taking on an opposite prerogative of unfettered economic development, in addition prioritizing a mishmash of unrestrained “recreational opportunities”. Indeed, the State did severely mismanage the Park thirty years ago by abusively flexing its authority without having the necessary foresight to engender reciprocal and tangible benefits, and that has created a great deal of mistrust. But overcompensating by empowering the phantoms of the opposition in such a knee-jerk manner has compounded the problems and mistrust exponentially. The true course needed to steer the Park away from the dangerous crumbling precipice of delegitimization, disenfranchisement and destruction–to correct our problems rather than to re-dress them in a different costume–is to focus on effect rather than gesticulation and machination, to prioritize the signified rather than the signal, to invert rather than to oppose. And this means resetting our sights, more accurately this time, on the original visionary idea behind the Park and preservation as a whole: not doubling down on recreational access, not doubling down on business permeation, but focusing on the real human desires that have made the Park a continuing place of home for visitors and residents alike–the very idea of home as a place of refuge, not as a place of state-sanctioned, commercialized ritualistic catharsis.

    For a while, residents and landowners have more or less went along with the recreation-business, hand-in-hand mythos–the majority of whom are in fact not reliant on tourist dollars. The towns and some long-time residents have indeed reaped sizable sums of tourism-dependent income, and some have even been freshly drawn to the region as a matter of business opportunity–two opposing ideas that have become synonymous in past years. But the phenomenon of this new rallying-cry is now becoming so strong that it is starting to have acute real-world effects on the everyday lives of all Park residents–effects sufficiently detrimental that a unified countermovement is coalescing. Larger numbers of ordinary residents are now not only fighting proposed development and extraction projects in their own backyards, but also proposed recreation projects and the severe laxity of the laissez-faire government attitudes towards utilization and development of our public and private lands–attitudes that have lead to problems like oversaturation by transient populations that price existing residents out and severely disrupt the lives of both those who can afford to remain and those who have fled to the peripheries (where it is becoming clear that there is nowhere left to go). Some economies have become so monolithic that they are no longer desirable for any and all but the select few at the very pinnacle, and towns that have failed to prevent this from happening are taking notice of a situation that may be capable self-perpetuating, but is certainly not sustainable without degradation to the environment and community fabric of the Park. Tourism can be sustainable in the Adirondack Park, and there are analogous protected areas in the world containing towns and residents that do have sustainable tourism, but this is not what that looks like.

    This very reality, of course, is what the Adirondack Park Act was designed to prevent, not to catalyze. We know that an ideal system requires no leadership to remain functional, but there are few such systems. Undoubtedly, the Adirondack Park is such a system that flounders without leadership to effectively face the headwinds of late-stage capitalism. We could certainly have a philosophical and political debate about whether the current leadership in the Park is merely an unavoidable reflection of the local constituency, or whether the constituency is in fact a reflection of its leadership, or whether it is right to impose any kind of leadership upon a people at all. But those debates do not get to the heart of the question–how can focusing on reflections of a spectacle tell us anything about what actually generates the spectacle? The real problem is that in such a hall of mirrors, amplified by modern media technologies, the loudest voices are the only ones of which we become aware. Even with the advent of the internet, the vast majority of our collective knowledge and wisdom–the vast majority of the theatre of discourse–remains sequestered in the idiomaticities of subcultures and the common sense of ordinary people, far from normal modes of persuasion. And it is by looking under this surface that we can see the clear path forward, away from the false premises of hyperbolic, echoing illusion.

    The are plenty of people in this state and in the Park who subscribe to the belief that public and private use can coexist harmoniously, but who also do not want to see significantly more recreational use nor significantly more development. Unfortunately, the rule of the loudest voice dictates that we are only presented with the false ultimatum of “either/or/and”, rather than what is often the necessity of “neither” and effective stability. Again, this precludes any real consensus, trust and security–any real sense of home–leaving the Park and its residents in a state of limbo, trapped between ideological juggernauts of recreation, development and resource extraction. There is the very real risk that the situation will become increasingly intractable, and that, at some point, any action taken will feed into a hopeless eventuality where nobody is satisfied. Some people even believe universal discontentment to be a sign of success. However, there is an obvious path forward, if only the hum of ordinary human life is hearkened to, where from the ashes of the temporary unhappiness of admitting ideological defeat there will arise a unity of purpose and ideal.

    What follows would be a breakdown of ultimata and dichotomy, where the potential of the Park to erase normal cultural and class divisions materializes. For example, it is an unkept secret that many legacy landowners (and their neighbors), some of whom own very important tracts, have simply refused to sell to the State for the very justified fear that the unspoiled lands which they know and love will be severely imperiled by the State’s devil-may-care attitude towards unfettered recreational access. Yet, with each passing day, due to the manner in which the dysfunctional system continues to chug along, these landowners are under increasing pressure to either extract some kind of economic return from their land or to subdivide–an uncomfortable reality for many local residents and landowners, but a reality that a good many would chose over seeing State acquisition. The problem is that the State has not provided people with the framework to achieve what is actually desired, and–what’s more–it has been posited that this is by design and that the State is intentionally instituting a scorched-earth campaign to strong-arm people into compliance with its rigid, arbitrary bureaucratic agenda. True or not, if the State ever wanted turn people against their machinery, they have done a good job of it. Instead, what if the State were to establish a framework that facilitated the voluntary transfer of private land to public ownership under an agreement which prohibits resource extraction as well as public recreation? Such publicly owned wildlife refuges and special conservation areas exist elsewhere, but I have never heard of any within the Park. These places may exist here, but if so, why are they so uncommon? Why are we not embracing this concept in the Park?

    Let’s think about it. Such a program would potentially allow for the acquisition and permanent protection of many thousands of acres that have been so far held back from any such possibility. Inevitably, the impediment would be that some will not like the concept for its incompatibility with their own ideologies. The argument would be made that such an agreement infringes on public or local rights. But how is that so in a Park with millions of publicly accessible acres? We need to think about the material public benefit and set aside individual skirmishes. Small areas refuge interspersed with wilderness areas, wild forests and rural use areas would act as invaluable buffers against development, overuse, invasive species, fluctuating trapping and hunting pressures, and so on. The ecological and preservation benefit of this type of parcel would dwarf, acre-for-acre and dollar-for-dollar, that of any other type of land classification, going a long way towards permanently securing a resilient future for the Park–a future that does not precariously depend on the perpetual fashion of the month, where each successive land transaction threatens to create in its wake looming waves of successional overuse, overdevelopment and contention. And importantly, I do believe that many residents would get behind this, in addition to the willing landowners.

    Obviously, there are many people who are ideologically threatened by this type of conversation. But few would actually experience from the realization of these ideas any material negative impacts comparable to the problems that many everyday park residents, not to mention some wild places, currently do and will face under the status quo. I understand that not all living within the Park share the same experience, but the sentiments and thoughts that I have shared here are real and they are not mine alone. And maybe Boreas is right that people would never go for it. But the time is coming when these sorts of grievances will need to be acknowledged, even if the final toll of the past decades will be that insidious and discordant new ideologies have become so embedded into the culture of the Adirondacks that there can be no clean slate.

    It is oft repeated that the problem with degrading a wild landscape is that there are usually few or no people left afterwards who have any concept of what has been lost. Biologists use this argument to justify potentially harmful research activities. Governments and conservationists will use this argument to justify potentially harmful levels of human use, branded as “appreciation”. In this way, we prioritize our own personal knowledge over the object itself. But such nomothetic modes of understanding alone are not complete, and when such modes of understanding are used in isolation, they take away from us any potential of forging and preserving lasting connections to the places around us. There is another way of understanding of place that defies our quantification or rational justification, that transcends culture and the human tendency towards logocentric oblivion and annihilation. It is an integral and necessary part of both every individual and entirety. It is that essential feeling that is often described as “home”: a constant background of understanding that is at once familiar and foreign in the same way that our own reflection repeatedly refracted back at itself becomes a dull petroglyph of a mountain as still as time. It is an interconnectedness between things and people and places that needs an unconstricted substrate upon which it can freely flow, a substance away from our own creation. Every home needs its dark corners so as to not become claustrophobic, and every home needs an undisturbed sleeping foundation upon which to sit. The Adirondacks are no exception.

  16. Charlie Stehlin says:

    There’s a lot to take-in here JB (including your stance on ‘voluntary transfer of private land to public ownership’) and I’m not so sure about all of what you say as my head hasn’t delved this deep into what I suppose can be called our aberrant state of economy, or the effects thereof. I mean after all it is about economy is it not? Subconsciously the human race swims in the thought of staying ahead of the game, or keeping afloat…at whatever cost; and there’s always someone in a position of authority, who has sway over much of what really matters in all of our lives, or in matters regards the natural world (which we are all a mere parcel of), and, unfortunately, all too often someone who will sacrifice the present so as to secure an illusory future with ego in mind.

    And so here we are in crisis mode, or sure as heck seemingly so. What do we do next? What do we try to save next? You hint of resetting our sights which is what many others have been suggesting for a length of time. Many blue moons have come and gone where enlightened souls have suggested ‘ we take a different course.’

    And you say: “There is another way of understanding of place…………. It is an interconnectedness between things and people and places that needs an unconstricted substrate upon which it can freely flow, a substance away from our own creation. Every home needs its dark corners so as to not become claustrophobic, and every home needs an undisturbed sleeping foundation upon which to sit. The Adirondacks are no exception.”

    Very cosmic of you! It used to be we went to our barns and saw to our cows, or to our gardens to reap what we sowed. A howling wilderness once surrounded those whose remains have long since been moldering in the earth. Now we are surrounded by cement and steel and absentmindedness. We went from simple to complex, a tangled web of chaos is what we are today. Them pioneer days are long gone! We cannot go back to them except for in our minds which isn’t a bad thing as there is romance in them, even though that romance may be a creature of our imaginations.

    I have strayed I know I have, but these are the thoughts that immediately came over me after absorbing your long-windedness.

    • JB says:

      Great word: “long-windedness”. Ars long, vita brevis, my friend! Distilling thoughts into universally meaningful concepts is a skill that I have yet to master! Nonetheless, I’m glad to be able to share my thoughts and read about what others are thinking. And, thank you; this has been an interesting meditation on the behemoth zero-sum game that has surrounded the ideal of the Park–among other things (the unity of opposites, nostalgia, greed, crisis theory). Your comment has reminded me of a passage that I read this past weekend from Kierkegaard, who has a way of expressing the elusively obvious in the most kleidoscopically lucent language that is a far cry from my tenuous lucubrations. (I think that he has said some pertinent things that people really ought to hear today, but unfortunately, fewer and fewer of his ideas are being given credence by young people in this country, it seems, in a climate where an old white theologian of such “antiquated values” will never be taken seriously.)
      I’ve copied an all-too-brief excerpt here for you:

      “In a theater, it happened that a fire started offstage. The clown came out to tell the audience. They thought it was a joke and applauded. He told them again, and they became still more hilarious. This is the way, I suppose, that the world will be destroyed—amid the universal hilarity of wits and wags who think it is all a joke.

      What, if anything, is the meaning of this life? If people are divided into two great classes, it may be said that one class works for a living and the other does not have that need. But to work for a living certainly cannot be the meaning of life, since it is indeed a contradiction that the continual production of the conditions is supposed to be the answer to the question of the meaning of that which is conditional upon their production.” (Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I)

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox