To the editor:
In 1967 an ad hoc committee prepared an unofficial proposal for the establishment of a 1.7 million-acre Adirondack national park; the rest is history. The proposal was quickly shot down in fear that the North Country populace would lose effective say in the management of a federally controlled national park.
After all, Adirondack Park has a storied history that we should all be very proud of. The park was built by towering political figures such as the founder of the Wilderness Society, Bob Marshall (one of the first to climb the 46 High Peaks), as well as the primary author of the Wilderness Act, Howard Zahniser. And our park is already rather full; we enjoy significant regional and international visitation. So what could we gain by handing over hundreds of thousands of acres of our 6 million-acre park to the Department of the Interior?
There are a handful of things that a national park brings: increased visitation, development, federal dollars and management. While the Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park is already designated "forever wild," these lands do not receive adequate stewardship. Despite the slow-moving bureaucratic process of the federal government, the Department of the Interior has the means and expertise to properly manage and steward large parks.
Another significant reason we ought to consider the formation of a national park is economic benefit. The 1967 proposal estimated a total of 250 park employees as well as $136 million in gross revenue from visitors by 1983. If we consider inflation rates and regional population growth, these numbers would increase by several factors. The National Park Service would also build several visitor centers that would be tourist hubs, bringing millions of people to the towns in which they are located.
Furthermore, these types of parks within parks are not unprecedented - there are several precedents of parks co-managed by state and national park services. I recently took a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and visited Marin County, adjacent to the city of San Francisco. The county is a beautiful mosaic of state parks and national recreation areas that includes Mount Tamalpais, majestic old-growth redwood trees and the wild Pacific coast. Can't we find a way to follow such models and successfully co-manage a portion of our Adirondack Park?
Now there are serious details to work out, including the size of the proposed park, how it would be managed and how we can ensure an effective voice in all of this. However, the potential benefits are simply too numerous and too great to ignore. In many ways we need this park because our state park system is heavily underfunded and the economic health of the park is languishing with the disappearance of extractive industries.
An Adirondack Mountain national park would bring increased wilderness stewardship, desperately needed development and visitation. The idea was shot down in 1967; however, we ought to get the conversation going again and identify the best way forward.