Sunday, September 24, 2023

Adirondack Voices: A look back at a landmark publication

RCPA clip

Organizing my historical Adirondack materials, I came across the newsletters (Adirondack Voices) from the 1990s published by the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA). This organization was founded in 1990 by full-time residents of the Adirondack Park intent on trying to keep some peace in the Adirondacks. They believed that the integrity and economic viability of the Adirondack communities they lived and worked in could be enhanced while preserving their unique wilderness and wild forest landscape. This view was contrary to the tenure of the time when there was tension, sometimes violent, between local residents of the Park who did not want the government telling them what to do and those who supported conservation efforts of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).

The contributors to Adirondack Voices were from all walks of life throughout the Adirondacks.

The first article in Volume 1, Number 1 of Adirondack Voices was by Richard Stewart, an Eighth generation Adirondacker. He states that he was once an adversary of the APA, but now an advocate. “When the APA was first formed, I could not see any need for “outsiders.” Then he saw the threat proposed by developers and “saw large plots of land being raped with no consideration for the future.” He expressed his opinion that “the poor were being easy prey for the greedy” and feared that the beauty of the Adirondacks would be lost forever.

Other articles in this first issue included writings from:

John Collins – Teacher in Long Lake, member of the Adirondack Park Agency Board, from Blue Mountain Lake

Bill Ling – A builder, canoeist and hunter from Hadley

Dan Ling – Operations Director of RCPA

David Moro – Former Marine officer. With his family, owned an investment business in North Creek

Evelyn Green, daughter of Paul Schaefer, wrote how her mother shepherded her family of four children up the mountains on a shoestring. “We were usually dropped off at a trailhead on Sunday afternoon,” Green writes. “We ate what we carried, caught, picked, found – or scrounged from friendly people.” She was concerned that “The mothers and children of tomorrow will need more wild places to challenge and satisfy them, and to know the world as it once was.”

Green subsequently reported on the first international students brought to the Newcomb School.

RCPA mission statement

Other articles in Adirondack Voices for the next ten years contained the writings and opinions of a variety of individuals, some more well-known than others, including Fred Balzac, Charles Brumley, Frank Clark, Betty Eldridge, Pete Fish, Don Greene, Philip J. Hamel, Carl Heilman, Frances Herman, Peter Hornbeck, Howard Kirshenbaum, Sandy Lamb, Jonathan P. MacAbee, Barbara McMartin, Bill McKibben, Peter O’Shea, Jeanne Plumley, Jean Raymond, Duane Ricketson, Charlie Ritchie, and Fran Yardley.

Joe Mahay, who lived in Paradox with his wife Naomi, was Board Chair of RCPA when he wrote in Adirondack Voices “Meeting the Social, Economic Needs of Adirondack Communities” urging state and local governments to form a partnership to create a regional economic development master plan and to increase health care networking in the Park. Mahay wrote of the need for wilderness as a “vital part of the national treasure.”  He was a hunter, and proud of it.

Peter Bauer (Blue Mountain Lake) was the Editor of Adirondack Voices. He wrote about the time in 1998 when the Essex County Board of Supervisors voted to sell the County’s Landfill which meant that garbage could be brought from outside the region. Bauer called upon Champion International Corporation to “Do the Right Thing” by selling the Champion lands in the northwestern Adirondacks to the State of New York along with conservation easements to ponds and bogs, and 50 miles of river corridors.

In the last issue I have, Volume 10, No. 1, Winter 2000 – 2001, Bauer introduces the initial results of an RCPA study of the growth of homes in the Park with the acknowledgement that APA regulates 43% of new development, and “local governments hold the key to the future of the Adirondack Park.”

I found the breath of articles intriguing, many of which are still relevant to the times. State Senator Ron Stafford was interviewed. He represented the North Country, including two-thirds of the Adirondack Park, and was not a supporter of environmental conservation and spending state dollars on land purchases. A question about Follensby Pond garnered this response from him: “How can you justify the State buying land when you haven’t got enough money for people on welfare? Have you ever been on welfare? I was.”  When asked about the APA, Stafford responded, “Get this directly back to the APA: if they don’t shape up we will cut their budget in half.” He was a state senator from 1966 to 2002.

Richard B. Purdue, Supervisor of the Town of Indian lake, accused Senator Stafford of demagogic posturing and fanning the flames of radicalism. Purdue wrote: “Following staunchly behind the Senator, Adirondack supervisors and legislators automatically endorsed abolition of the APA and watched silently as the Senator commenced a push for tax abatement legislation obscenely favorable to this one true love: the big paper companies.”

Adirondack Voices provided the opportunity for stakeholders to express their views outside of the established Adirondack news outlets from Saranac Lake, Lake George, and Old Forge, before the internet and social media became an avenue for individual expression. In 2005 John Warren founded the Adirondack Almanack. This online blog quickly became a leading news source for the Adirondacks, representing wide ranging views of those who lived and visited here.

I joined the RCPA Board in 2006 and felt honored to be a part of this grassroots organization, to hear their stories and to spend time with these dedicated Adirondackers. RCPA and The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA) consolidated in 2009 to form Protect the Adirondacks where Peter Bauer is currently the Executive Director.

NOTE: Copies of the Adirondack Voices Newsletters from 1990-2000 are included in Barbara McMartin’s papers (66 boxes of materials) archived at Adirondack Experience, the Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. Reference 3422RCPA.

Related Stories

Award winning author Lorraine Duvall's newest book contains stories about where she has lived in the Adirondacks for the last 24 years, titled "Where The Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home." She writes of her paddling adventures in the book "In Praise of Quiet Waters: Finding Solitude and Adventure in the Wild Adirondacks." Some experiences from her memoir, "And I Know Too Much to Pretend," led her to research a woman's commune north of Warrensburg, resulting in the 2019 book, "Finding A Woman's Place: The story of a 1970s feminist collective in the Adirondacks." Duvall lives in Keene and is on the board of Protect the Adirondacks.

4 Responses

  1. louis curth says:

    Lorraine Duvall’s story entitled “Adirondack Voices” adds important information about the RCPA, its leaders, and its efforts to protect the Adirondacks.

    For some context to this story, I would only add that the RCPA and its publication “Adirondack Voices” are, in reality, chapter two of a story that began some twenty years earlier, after America’s seminal Earth Day of 1970, That was when the Upper Hudson Environmental Action Committee was formed in northern Warren County. The UHEAC also put out a newsletter with the title “The Duff – environmental news at the grassroots level”. It was a quarterly mimeographed publication that ran from 1973 until 1983, with news and announcements about the many activities that the UHEAC was involved with. These included annual town clean-ups, recycling, hikes, paddles, & ski trips, support and lobbying for greater protection of the Adirondacks, via the APA, land use planning, protection of Adk. waters, and much more. (I have copies of most issues if you are interested Ms. Duvall.)

    The RCPA people cited are also very familiar to me. Both Peter Hornbeck and Evelyn Green were longtime UHEAC board members. Supporters like Richard Stewart, Anna Smith of Smith’s Restaurant in North Creek, and many other local people from the Johnsburg/Chestertown/North Creek area all contributed their time, money and expertise to a huge number of activities over the years.

    I am certain that the later achievements of the RCPA benefitted in many ways from the environmental activism of the UHEAC, and its base of local support that grew stronger and helped bring about the success of the projects carried out during those earlier years. It truly was a learning experience at the grass roots level.

  2. Tony Goodwin says:

    Those RCPA newsletters raised many relevant issues at the time, but the acrimony that RCPA was formed to answer stemmed from the somewhat extreme recommendations of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-first Century. The RCPA sought to make those recommendations seem reasonable enough to actually enact. To that end, they enlisted those in the Park that they could find who supported recommendations such as 2,000 acre zoning of undeveloped land. In the end, the Commissions recommendations went nowhere.

    In looking at the history of the RCPA, one must also realize that it was first organized by two staffers on the Commission, Peter Bauer and a Wendy. (Her last name now escapes me, but I know she died way too young of cancer.) In my opinion, the RCPA was, in reality, a lobbying group to promote the Commission’s goals.

    One of those goals was to identify those areas of private land that should be added to the Forest Preserve. Many areas were identified, but left out were two very “forest preserve eligible” parcels that just happened to be owned – one by a commissioner on the Commission and one by a member of the Advisory Group.

    I agree that Protect has more recently done some very useful research to show that the Adirondacks are actually doing much better because of the protections that have bee enacted over the years, starting with the creation of the Forest Preserve. So I am not saying that all the organization has done is wrong, I just thought I should add a bit of context to the original post.

  3. Terry castagnier says:

    Hi , I’m looking to contact anyone who may be able to guide me with info on the fox farm camp located on Quebec brook. Maybe something in the archives of the Adirondack magazine. Thank you

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