Thanks very much to those who came out to our panel discussion at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s new visitor center last week. As part of our ongoing solutions reporting, the event focused on issues around High Peaks use. We had a great team of experts to talk about the importance of data collection for making management decisions and the importance of visitor centers, stewards and forest rangers for educating the public. Our audience had some wonderful insight and questions, too.
If you weren’t able to make it out, but are interested in watching, you can check out our video below.
Newly passed gun legislation has Democrats and Republicans at odds over what it could mean for Adirondack Park residents and visitors. I spoke with Environmental Conservation Officer Matt Krug about his key takeaways and how it may be enforced in the park. Since that story, state Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury and state Assembly Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, are introducing legislation that would exempt the Adirondacks and Catskills. The Legislature’s extraordinary session is over, so we’ll have to see when and if lawmakers will take up the amendment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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