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The Conclusion of a 3-Part Series: Is it Time to Conclude the Adirondack Park “Experiment?”

March 3, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Over the last 2 weeks I have been examining the term “the great experiment” often used to describe this quilt of private and public land we call a Park. Business, local communities, state and federal organizations often are required to conduct master or comprehensive plans that must be updated on a periodic basis.

There is no such requirement to review this “experiment” we call a Park and is it time to do so? Should in fact, a legislative mechanism be put in place that reviews the Park concept on a regular basis? If so, how do we do that?

An Inclusive Process

First, I believe it is important to consider that just like the discussion regarding the future of the APA; a debate on the economy is only a part of the planning puzzle.

There needs to be a fundamental review of what we call the ‘Park.”

It needs to include environmentalists, local government, residents, business, and state, federal and even international representatives. This needs to be an inclusive process that is not governed by the state but they sanction this process and are a key principle. Federal and international representatives need to be involved as well based on their role in the Park and its important international designations.

From local Rotary clubs to state representatives, we should consider calling for this review.

Create a Mechanism for a Periodic Review?

Second, perhaps one of the first orders of business is to create a legislative mechanism to have this happen on a regular basis.

This is more than a debate on the APA; it’s about the biodiversity of the region, our history, species, and way of life. We feel the essence of the Park in our bones and it has drawn inspiration from painters, poets, young working families and the gray wolf.

But the historical approach to the Park has not been consistent and natural and human species are finding it increasingly difficult to call this sense of place, home.

Perhaps we can start this process locally ranging from civic groups to local governments or perhaps through the Adirondack Association of Town and Villages. Should we consider the questions of reviewing the Park experiment and looking to its future? Should we mandate this be done on a regular basis?

Local groups taking the lead in this discussion will help to ensure our leadership role in this process so that it is a “bottom-up” approach and not a “top-down-in-your-face” mandate.

Key questions may include: Is it time to say we have conducted this experiment long enough? Is it time to examine the results, check the data and more importantly, to come to some conclusions on how to move forward? We examine this from environmental perspectives to community sustainability.

For example, is the Park really a park? What kind of Park do we want? Should we keep the management of the Park’s economic, community, transportation and environmental conservation in multiple jurisdictions or do we need a more comprehensive Park-wide effort? Should we consider moving the Blue Line?

A Bottom-up Approach

This cannot be done in the manner of the 21st C Commission and it cannot be under funded and unrecognized by the state like the Adirondack Common Ground effort.

Perhaps legislation should be introduced that if you are going to call yourself a “Park” it is required every 10 years to come up with master plan.

There is no requirement to conclude this “great experiment,” analyze its success and failures, come up with a threats and opportunities list and come up with recommendations going forward.

For an area that is believed to be so special that it is placed under unique regulations, is a periodic review too much to ask? Or are we bankrupting our future by not doing this?

This is not just a review of the APA, it is a look at the whole man and nature habitat we call the “Park”

I know what you are saying: “We have done this before and look at the results.”

But look at where we are today. How long we can keep going in this manner?

Let’s live up to the potential of what this park can be. Let’s be a leader and became better known than Yosemite. When you think of Costa Rica you think of sustainable tourism or Tibet with meditation.

Working together, not just with old partners but with the new growing international network on sustainability, we have a chance to create a truly visionary model of inspiration, governance and natural grace – a true Park habitat of man and nature. We could become a leading world biosphere.

Ideas to Begin the Discussion

1. An Inclusive, Sanctioned Panel that Starts with Local Government?

The Park is not only important to those who live here but it is obviously important to the state.

But perhaps for a change, we take the lead in beginning the discussion on the future of the Park.

As a recognized biodiversity region it is also important to a myriad of national and international organizations.

Conversations about the future of the Park needs not only to be a locally and state driven initiative but should include a whole range of resources and collaborations with national and international organizations.

Could we create a truly inclusive local, state, federal and international recognized and sanctioned effort?

This mixture of local, state, federal and international resources could form focus topics from biodiversity, acid rain, and endangered species to tourism, history and sustainable community development. These groups could analyze several key questions:

• What was the original challenge, threat or opportunity that faced these core groups like community development or land protection when the Park was formed? Is it still valid today or are there new challenges?

• Within these areas, what information can we gleam from this “experiment?” What was good, bad and how can it be improved?

• Moving forward are there better ways to address these challenges? What are the priorities in each area and suggested key strategies?

2. An International Conference on the Future of the Adirondack Park?

If a recognized and sanctioned effort cannot be put in place that creates the environment for a periodic review of the ‘Park,” then perhaps a first step can be to organize an International Conference on the Future of the Adirondack Park.

There could be sessions ranging from reintroducing endangered species to how to create effective sustainable development strategies.

We ask them to do some work for us though.

A centerpiece of the Conference could be to ask each group to develop a position paper on ideas to move the Park forward based on their topic area.

It is a small step, but perhaps it would get a conversation started. After all look at what Costa Rica has done on branding sustainable tourism for their country and they have been assisted by the work done by local and world-wide collaborations on ideas.

How do We Fund a Plan for the Future?

How do we fund this? You cannot be represented at the table unless your sector has helped to fund this effort.

I also believe that if we share the investment from a diverse pool of local, private, state, federal, international entities it will not be an overwhelming burden on any one entity.

These are only the ideas of one person. Can you imagine if several of us would begin to talk about the future of the Park and then the circle became wider? I am confident that we would come up with great ideas on creating a better habitat for both man and nature.

But first we must ask ourselves “Is it time to conclude this experiment and do a fundamental review of all aspects of this place we call a “park” and use the lessons learned to consider new approaches?”

Our family has lived here for 4 generations. I am not overly optimistic that a 5th can make it here in the Park’s current condition.


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