Almanack Contributor Gwendolyn Craig

Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.


Saturday, December 4, 2021

Has any park gotten it right?

acadiaThis 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.)

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Permits in the preserves

AMR lotIn 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.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

An APA meeting with a chairman

APA signJohn 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.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

A plan for transparency

proposed jay resort

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.

This led to our latest story about a Miami-based developer proposing a development on 350 acres in Jay. You can check out the initial story here, as well as initial reactions to it here

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


Friday, October 22, 2021

APA back to public comments and more updates

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.

Fall hikes

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.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

The future of Follensby Pond

follensby pond

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?

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The next governor

kathy hochul

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


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Harmful algal blooms are here

harmful algal bloomsIt’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.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

A chat with Gov. George Pataki

patakiIn 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.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, June 18, 2021

NYS legislative session: It’s a wrap

boat inspectionsThe state legislative session is over. What a weird, hybrid year of remote meetings and some in-person, masked meetings. The Capitol remained closed to the public, but more lobbyists held press conferences outside these last few months. Some of my colleagues continued to work out of the Legislative Correspondents Association offices in the Capitol while others, such as myself, worked from home. Everyone adapts.

Now that the whirlwind is over, though, we can reflect on what was done and what wasn’t. In the last flurry of bills this week, lawmakers made an aquatic invasive species inspection law permanent for the Adirondack Park. The bill also gave more authority to the state Department of Environmental Conservation do require these inspections and boat washes. The bill received unanimous support in both houses–a perhaps rare example of an Adirondacks issue that rallied bipartisan support, environmental groups’ support and local governments’ support. Now the governor has to sign off and make it official.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, June 4, 2021

Albany session is winding down

lake champlainI’ve had a few folks write me asking about the progress of the Adirondack Rail Trail.

Phil Brown actually rode some of it! In case you missed his story, take a look here.

The state legislative session is winding down, but that just means the work is ramping up. There are so many bills to keep track of, and I doubt legislators will get to all that were proposed this year. For example, I haven’t seen any movement around the conservation design bill. I also haven’t seen any movement on some of the constitutional amendments in the pipeline, such as Hamilton County’s request to put an emergency communications tower on Cathead Mountain.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Fish Creek Pond campground and a hike up Crane Mountain

crane ladder

But in case you missed it, we had two stories published online last week on Adirondack Park Agency happenings. One included a look at what the state Department of Environmental Conservation is hoping to do to its largest campground, Fish Creek Pond. The DEC’s proposal is out for public comment, this time looking for feedback on how the proposal meshes (or does not) with the Adirondack Park Agency’s rules and regulations. Here’s the story.

We also had a look at the APA and DEC’s presentation on managing visitors to the Adirondack Park and monitoring wildlands. It was interesting to hear from staff that the scientific method has been missing, at least in a consistent way, from state management of the forest preserve. While there’s no formal public comment period for these guidelines released last week, the APA and DEC still want to hear your thoughts. Click here to read more and to learn how to comment.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Bugs on the brain

Bugs that eat Hemlock woolly adelgidI’ve had bugs on the brain the last couple of weeks.

That’s because the New York State Hemlock Initiative invited me out to the Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville to see the release of a predator fly that eats the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid — a forest pest that has afflicted the Lake George area of the Adirondacks. I went. About a week later, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plan Program held its annual partner meeting and guess what was a major highlight? Hemlock woolly adelgid. Check out adirondackexplorer.org for our coverage.

Of course, it was snowing when I went out to see these predator bugs released, so we missed the excitement of unscrewing a jar lid and sending them off. I confess that upon seeing these HWA predators in a jar, I was a bit underwhelmed by their size. They look more like fruit flies, hardly what one thinks when you hear the word “predator.” In my imagination, I whipped them up to look more like the size of house flies. I thought they’d be swarming in jars, thick and dense, so when they were let out, “release the flies!” would be a good thing to yell.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

This week’s APA meeting and the tree-cutting decision

fish creekWe have another jam-packed Adirondack Park Agency meeting to look forward to this week.

The board will hear from staff about solar projects in the park, upgrades to the Fish Creek Pond Campground and the long-awaited visitor use management and wildlands monitoring guidance that has been delayed the last couple of meetings. I have a preview of the meeting up on our website. I’ll be covering the meetings, too, for you.

If you’d like to listen in for yourself, go to apa.ny.gov for the agenda and the virtual meeting info.

It’s not on the agenda, but I’m also wondering if the Adirondack Park Agency will discuss the Court of Appeals ruling that was handed down Tuesday last week. The state’s highest court ruled that Class II community connector trails, which are trails big enough and graded to accommodate snowmobiles, were unconstitutional. The majority said the trails required cutting too many trees and violated the “forever wild” clause of the state constitution. The 4-2 decision was in favor of Protect the Adirondacks, which brought the suit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency.

What we don’t know yet is how far-reaching this decision is. Protect the Adirondacks and several environmental organizations in favor of its side have said they believe the decision only impacts these community connector trails. Others worry that the decision will impact more than that, including hiking trail maintenance, new hiking trails and campground maintenance. So far the APA and DEC are consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office to get guidance on that. As we learn more, we’ll have more information for you.

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Fish Creek Pond Campground photo by Mike Lynch/Explorer


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Adirondack Report: Preview of this month’s APA meeting; state budget update

The state budget was late, but it finally passed both houses last week.

I had a quick overview on our website highlighting that the Adirondacks and Catskills are getting $1.55 million for visitor use management. Of that funding, up to $800,000 will go to Essex County to assist with its pilot shuttle system, front country stewards and infrastructure, like portable toilets. We also have a renewed $3 billion environmental bond act.

» Continue Reading.