After about a year of reporting and a summer of travel, our initial series on solutions to increasing visitor use is complete. My last two stories ran in our May/June issue and are now up on our website. Of course this story never ends. This was our first crack at exploring what other outdoor destinations are doing to balance natural resource protection, accessibility and inclusivity.
I know I previewed this in my last newsletter, but in case you didn’t get a chance to read it, here is my roundup of the four Adirondack Park constitutional amendments that didn’t get first passage this legislative session. The conservation design bill, legislation intended to protect more open space and natural resources when planning for some subdivisions, passed the Assembly but not the Senate. Also of note, a bill that brings forest rangers and environmental conservation officers’ retirements up to the same standards as State Police passed both chambers. We’ll see if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs it this time.
In anticipation of a busy hiking season, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos took a trip up to the Adirondacks last week to recap all the visitor management initiatives DEC and partners have implemented.
“This is paradise,” Seggos said. “This is New York’s Yellowstone, and New Yorkers have discovered that.”
The Adirondack Park Agency is meeting in person this week for the first time since last summer. The two-day meeting will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the APA’s Ray Brook headquarters. It will pick back up at 9 a.m. on Friday. The meeting will be broadcast live online, but public comment will have to be made in person. Face masks are not required but encouraged, the agency wrote.
There are several projects the board is expected to vote on including an amendment to the Whiteface Ski Center Unit Management Plan. More background on that here. Staff are recommending approval for the amendment’s conformance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
Barbara Rice attended her first Adirondack Park Agency meeting last week as its new executive director just a few days after starting the job. It was a packed five-hour meeting.
“The one thing that stands out to me is how dedicated and hard working the staff here is,” Rice said, at the start of the meeting.
We published a couple of stories out of that Thursday marathon, including how the Olympic Regional Development Authority plans to widen some ski trails at Whiteface Mountain.
In case you missed it, Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her first State of the State speech last week. This is where the governor tells New Yorkers what she’s hoping to accomplish within the next year. It will be followed by a state budget presentation later this month.
My first time covering a State of the State address was January 2020. The coronavirus pandemic was barely a whisper in the Capitol building. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo held his address inside The Egg in Albany where hundreds of people were in attendance. Out of curiosity I filed a records request for a list of those invited, but it took me over a year to get it from the Cuomo administration. Cuomo, even during his State of the State in 2021, used big PowerPoint presentations and video snippets. In 2020, a couple of dozen journalists were there. I couldn’t tell you how many photographers and videographers were scouting out their best shots while walking through the crowd.
This summer and fall I travelled to the Catskills, Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire and Acadia National Park in Maine to look at how other popular outdoors destinations are handling crowds. My colleagues also took some trips this summer.
We’re going to share with you over the next several magazines what we learned and how different management techniques are working. These are things that could come to the Adirondack Park, or are already in pilot stages. If you’re not a magazine subscriber and haven’t read this yet, click here to read an overview of our solutions journalism project. (And if you’re not a subscriber and would like to be, click here.)
In September I had a chance to try out the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s reservation system. The Monday Dave and I went, it was pouring and there were a handful of cars in the parking lot and no people. Not exactly a good start for a journalist looking to chat with folks about how they liked the new system.
We sat in the car for a bit, and sure enough a car drove up and based on the amount of time it was parked near the parking attendant shelter, it looked like they might not have a permit. I secured my raincoat, grabbed my recorder and dashed to the vehicle in case it was about to turn around and head out to Route 73. Instead, the car drove into the parking lot and the couple that got out were equally eager to talk to me. They asked if they could jump on my hiking permit as they did not have one. One free permit can be good for up to eight people.
John Ernst chaired his first Adirondack Park Agency meeting last week. The agency met virtually again. It was not without technical hiccups. A state-run web system crash left some APA staff unable to control the Webex meeting for a time. This meant public commenters had to wait until the end of the meeting to speak, and some staff could not show their PowerPoint presentations. But the presentations were posted online so board members and the public could follow along. Patient members of the public waited nearly three hours later to speak.
Ernst fielded an agenda thick with information about solar projects and the agency’s role. In case you missed it, we had a short story about that last week you can read here.
We continue to follow the agency’s first public comment period over a subdivision in Jay. The APA is regularly updating its website with the latest comments submitted.
At the other end of the park in the town of Mayfield, we talked to an entrepreneur who wants to build an RV park on Great Sacandaga Lake. He has not yet submitted a permit application to the APA, but his plans are before the town’s planning board. Several folks in the neighborhood are against the proposal. You can read more about that here or by clicking the story below.
Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” email. Click here to sign up.
Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration released state agency reports and plans for improving transparency. Around the same time, the Olympic Regional Development Authority said it would appeal a judge’s order for transparency on certain accident records requested by the Adirondack Explorer.
You can also read ORDA’s transparency plan here, along with the Adirondack Park Agency’s and the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s. The APA appears to be taking some steps, including issuing a press release today on projects out for public comment. Typically I would have to watch the website on a near-daily basis to see if any new projects were on the docket. This is a change to have a press release.
Image of proposed development courtesy of APA
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up
The Adirondack Park Agency met last week for the first time since July. Board members had quite a bit of business to attend to while back in virtual format due to increasing concerns over the coronavirus. They approved a 20-megawatt solar farm in Ticonderoga, approved updates to the management plan for Fish Creek Pond Campground and Day Use Area and heard a presentation from the Olympic Regional Development Authority on proposed updates to Whiteface Mountain.
To top it off, this was the first virtual meeting in the last year-and-a-half of the pandemic that the APA allowed for live, public comment. Dave Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, was the only person to make use of the comment period time afforded at the beginning and end of the meeting. In meetings prior, the agency collected public comments through an email address. It’s good to have the public be able to directly address board members again. This also coincided with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plans for all state agencies and departments to draft transparency guidelines, something the APA will have to do soon.
On another note, I’ve received quite a few phone calls from folks asking me how to get a permit or reservation to hike in the Adirondacks. There is still clearly some confusion over the reservation system for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, a gateway to a number of popular hikes, but certainly not the only spot to see beautiful views. Most of the people who have called me say they have trouble using a computer and wish to book a reservation over the phone. I’ve also gotten quite a few phone calls asking about the status of our autumn foliage colors in the Adirondacks.
For those curious, we have a webpage with some answers on the reservation system for the Adirondack Mountain reserve here. You can also keep track of the fall colors through the I Love NY’s fall foliage reports, which we’ve been running on the Adirondack Almanack.
Photo from Rooster Comb in Keene on Oct. 11.
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.
In case you missed it, the state and The Nature Conservancy are in discussion over the future of Follensby Pond. The tract in Tupper Lake has a storied past from its days hosting great philosophers like Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its heritage lake trout are also legendary. We haven’t heard much about this property. The Nature Conservancy purchased it about 13 years ago.
Some believe state and conservancy negotiations will lead to Follensby Pond closed to the public, while others have high hopes it will be part of the forest preserve. What would you like to see?
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave himself and New Yorkers two weeks notice following a damning report by private investigators that found he had sexually harassed multiple women for years. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over soon and be the state’s first female governor.
What does a Hochul administration look like for the Adirondacks? I talked to a few different groups here in the park to find out their thoughts. And with little time left in office, Cuomo has plenty of loose ends to tie in the park. If he doesn’t, Hochul will have some work to do including appointing members to a road salt task force and filling some Adirondack Park Agency vacancies. You can read more about all of that here. Since that story, we also learned that Hochul plans to run for governor in the next gubernatorial election, so it’s possible she could stick around for a while.
We’ve had lots of other news to share in the Adirondacks, including the new High Peaks hiker shuttle set to kick off Aug. 21. Let us know if you take the shuttle and what you think.
Photo: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul participates in 2018 Adirondack Challenge in Indian Lake. Photo courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up
It’s harmful algal bloom season, and Lake George had its first reported one of the season last week.
Getting information about it was messy. The Lake George Association first reported the suspicious bloom, found during a routine Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program survey, to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC staff confirmed it was a harmful algal bloom and posted that information on its notifications page. I saw that report and requested information from both LGA staff and the DEC. What then ensued was a back-and-forth between DEC and LGA, via email and phone. It was clear that though the bloom was documented a couple of days before, no one was on the same page about how to get information out about it. There was even discrepancy over whether to call it a harmful algal bloom.
In mid-May I took a trip up to Willsboro to meet up with former Gov. George Pataki. I wanted to get his take on a few different things happening in the park, one of which you’ll read about in our July/August issue in a story about trash in the Adirondacks.
Wait, before you go,
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