He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.
Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.
It’s back to school time in the Adirondacks and New York State. One of the things that always happens at this time is reports about school district enrollments year-over-year in a particular area. These stories are useful and interesting, but they usually lack context.
The new sustainable hiking trail under construction to the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg is expected to be completed in the early fall. This project has been a priority of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This project started in 2018 and marked a completely different approach to hiking trail building in the Forest Preserve and the High Peaks Wilderness.
For the first time, the DEC committed to a multi-year effort to showcase new sustainable trail design and trail building techniques for the Forest Preserve. In many ways, this trail marks a new beginning for the state’s approach to hiking trail building in the Adirondack Park.
Among Adirondack Park leaders, blaming the Park, the Forest Preserve, environmental protections, and environmental groups, is fashionable. Population trends are often cited, along with things like school district trends, to substantiate this narrative. Hardly ever do local leaders attempt to place Adirondack population or school district trends in a statewide or national context.
The US Census allows us to assess what’s going on in the Adirondack Park in a statewide and national context. The US Census just released its first cut of the 2020 decennial census. This data is very informative, though we’ll know more in late September when town-level data is released, and we’ll learn even more in 2022 when age and race data along with economic data is released.
The US Census released its first cut at the 2020 decennial census last week. This data is limited, delivered for the purpose of redistricting for statewide and federal elected representatives. Much more detailed data will be released to the public at the end of September with population data at the town and county level. In 2022, we’ll get more data on age and race as well as economic data.
The big news is that New York State gained population at a rate of 4.2% from 2010 to 2020, topping 20 million residents for the first time in the state’s history. In 2020, New York State residents totaled 20,201,249, up from 19,378,102 in 2010, a gain of 823,147 new residents.
In an op-ed run in the Albany Times Union on August 1, 2021 and in the Adirondack Almanack, Town of Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells got many things wrong about the recent historic forever wild court decision. He makes serious accusations, yet he twists, bends, and distorts reality to fit his narrative. The one thing that he got right was that “Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails” were struck down by New York’s highest court because they violated Article 14, Section 1, of the State Constitution, the forever wild clause.
Here are a dozen ways that Brian Wells plays fast and loose with the truth.
The May 4, 2021, decision by the New York Court of Appeals ruled that Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails violated Article 14, Section 1, of the New York Constitution. This ruling capped an 8-year legal challenge by Protect the Adirondacks against the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA). In the end, eight of the twelve judges who looked at the evidence found that Class II trails were unconstitutional.
For two decades, Protect the Adirondacks, its predecessor organizations, and many others, took the position that Class II trails, or anything like them, violated Article 14, Section 1, the forever wild clause of the State Constitution. Few at these state agencies heeded our concerns.
I recently walked the stretch of the Remsen to Lake Placid Railroad corridor from where it crosses the Old Military Road near the firehouse in Lake Placid to where the Scarface Mountain hiking trail crosses the tracks. It’s a bit over four miles. The rails have been removed, and there were small piles of them stacked on the rail side, and many of the ties were loose. There were steel plates that held the rails to the ties and lots of railroad spikes were strewn on the disheveled ties. The removal of the steel rails is the first stage of the transformation of this long-defunct railroad into a public multi-use recreation trail.
The railroad corridor is thickly forested, mostly typical northern upland forest at the Lake Placid end, but cuts through boreal habitat and wetlands with some stands dominated by red pines. The rail corridor shares space in this stretch with the utility lines to Lake Placid. The poles have all been recently rebuilt and the new fiber optic line hangs on them.
In the days before the riots at our nation’s Capital that temporarily stopped certification of Joe Biden’s election as President, I wrote a piece for the Almanack detailing all the ways that our Adirondack and North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik had lied to her constituents about the 2020 election. Then, after the rioters were cleared from the Capitol on January 6th, which included dead bodies, Elise Stefanik took to the floor of the House of Representatives and lied some more.
This article concludes the series examining the ideas in the final report of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Group (HPAG) that provides ideas for building a new and improved management program for the High Peaks Wilderness Complex (HPWC). This article focuses on the realities of turning the ideas in the HPAG report, many of which have been around for years or are already in the works, into on-the-ground realities in the management of the HPWC. This piece looks at how to evaluate the success of the ideas enumerated in this report through adoption and implementation of leading ideas in the short-term and long-term.
The report was greeted warmly by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement “I commend the efforts of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group in developing this important report which provides solid recommendations to further enhance our ongoing efforts to manage use and protect our irreplaceable natural treasures.… With the growing uptick in visitors to the High Peaks region, compounded this past summer by New Yorkers desperate to get outside as a respite from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that DEC and our partners work together to protect these irreplaceable lands for future generations by promoting sustainable recreation, supporting local communities, and improving the visitor experience, and we look forward to working with all partners to continue and expand our ongoing efforts.”
This is the sixth article in a series examining the ideas in the final report of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Group (HPAG) that outlines a plan to build a new and improved management program for the High Peaks Wilderness Complex (HPWC). This article focuses on the ideas cataloged in the last two parts of the report “Hamlets as Hubs” and “Stabilizing Financial Support.”
The “Hamlets” section attempts to lay out ideas for how communities that are overwhelmed by people seeking to hike in the High Peaks can better manage the associated impacts, such as the Town of Keene, and how other communities can attract more visitors, such as North Hudson and Newcomb. Adirondack communities unevenly experience the impacts of the hiking surge in the High Peaks and other parts of the Forest Preserve. The “Hamlets” section is one of the biggest sections in the HPAG report. It includes 30 recommendations for action, more than a dozen alone to manage human and animal waste better.
This is the fifth article in a series examining the ideas in the final report of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Group (HPAG) that outlines a plan to build a new and improved management program for the High Peaks Wilderness Complex (HPWC). This article focuses on recommendations and ideas in the “Public Safety, Transportation and Traffic Safety” section of the report.
A high priority in reformed High Peaks Wilderness management is improvements to the ad hoc parking situation that has grown worse over the years and is stressed to breaking during periods of intense use all along the north side of the High Peaks Wilderness. Good public access with a coherent trailhead parking plan is as important as sustainable trails, science and monitoring, and higher levels of professional staffing to significantly improve the management of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex in the years ahead.
Recruitment of new people to live in Adirondack communities is all the buzz. It’s a central focus of the Common Ground Alliance, which contracted for a plan of action for communities with ambitions to recruit more people to move here.
While Adirondack communities recruit young professionals after ages 35 and 45 years old in low numbers and retirees in higher numbers, a premium has been placed on recruiting young adults with young children or young adults who may have children once they move here.
The push for recruitment of new residents is not just an Adirondack thing; it is now in vogue all across Rural America. Many rural areas see recruitment opportunities after a full year of the COVID19 pandemic.
When thinking about and planning for population recruitment in the Adirondacks, local leaders and planners should be aware of five dominant trends that shape population dynamics in the Adirondacks and Rural America.
This is the fourth article in a series examining the ideas in the final report of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Group (HPAG) that outlines a plan to build a new and improved management program for the High Peaks Wilderness Complex (HPWC). This article focuses on recommendations and ideas in the “High Peaks Wilderness Trails” section of the report. A focus on hiking trails in the High Peaks is vital, as in many ways, it’s the condition of the trails that ties together other management efforts.
As with other sections of the HPAG report, the recommendations on trails require significant new investment by the state on a sustained, annual basis to make progress. Trail work success in the High Peaks, given the challenges of the terrain and the heavy use, is measured in feet, not in miles. There are roughly 200 miles of formal trails in the HPWC and another 100 miles of herd trails for the so-called “trailless peaks.” Perhaps, more than any other area in the HPAG report, the measurement of its traction and impact will be seen through a change in trail work scope and intensity.
This is the third article in a series examining the ideas in the final report of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Group (HPAG) that outlines a plan to build a new and improved management program for the High Peaks Wilderness Complex (HPWC). This article focuses on recommendations and ideas in the “Visitor Experience” section of the report.
HPAG’s recommendations will require a significant investment in state resources on an ongoing basis and additional staffing to improve the management of the HPWC by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). HPAG recommends a long-term, broad-based advisory group to help coordinate management reforms. Without greater funding, enhanced staffing, and a management committee to lead the process, many of the HPAG report ideas will rust.
The Visitor Experience section is a big part of the HPAG report. I count 35 separate recommendations, some that try to breathe new life into dormant actions from existing Unit Management Plans (UMPs), others that spotlight ideas that have been in the wind for a while, and others that try to introduce new and different management options.
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