TUPPER LAKE - A new organization called ADK Works unveiled a media-blitz campaign Tuesday to keep the Adirondack Club and Resort in the spotlight.
More than 100 people turned out to the former Ginsberg's Department Store on Park Street, a building owned and partly renovated by Tom and Sue Lawson, who are among the ACR developers. One end of the block was blocked by a police car and the other by a fire truck. According to Jim LaValley, spokesman for ADK Works, the blockades were symbolic of an issue that has plagued Tupper Lake.
"The playing field's not level here," LaValley said. "Eight years of review, a vote of 10 to one, $10 million invested, and here we are."
State Sen. Betty Little speaks Tuesday at the former Ginsberg’s Department Store on Park Street as ADK?Works unveils a campaign to keep the Adirondack Club and Resort in the spotlight. Behind Little, from left, are Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce Director Michelle Clement, Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun, Tupper Lake town Supervisor Roger Amell, Ellen Maroun and Jim LaValley.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
LaValley was referring to the state Adirondack Park Agency's vote in January 2012 to approve the ACR. The project was then halted when Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and some neighbors filed a lawsuit in March of that year.
ADK Works was launched with the help of the Northern Adirondack Board of Realtors, which then got the New York State Association of Realtors involved.
"We saw this as an issue of how people are taking advantage of a system to prevent something from moving forward," LaValley said. "Tupper Lake played by the rules."
THE ADIRONDACK CLUB AND RESORT, proposed by a Pennsylvania-based investment group called Preserve Associates, would overhaul the Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake and build out the land around it with about 650 luxury housing units and various amenities including a spa, a marina and an equestrian center. The project received permits from the state Adirondack Park Agency on Jan. 20, 2012, after eight years, but progress stopped that March when two environmental groups and three nearby landowners sued to challenge the APA's decision. That suit is working its way through state courts.
The town-village planning board has approved the first phase, but the project still must obtain permits from the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Among the guests in attendance were state Sen. Betty Little, Franklin County Board of Legislators Chairman Billy Jones, Franklin County Legislator Guy "Tim" Smith, Tupper Lake town Supervisor Roger Amell, Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun and Michelle Clement, director of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from U.S. Rep. Bill Owens' and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey's offices were also present.
Standing behind a podium adorned with the ADK Works' slogan, "The Park Works When People Do," Ellen Maroun welcomed the crowd and opened with a description of the bleak reality of modern-day Tupper Lake.
"The reality of what is, is not given to my personal viewpoints, or my personal experiences," Maroun said. "This reality is clearly evident and witnessed throughout our community with over 100 'for sale' signs placed on lawns outside of homes. It's evident when we talk to those in the workforce who express their well-founded fears regarding employment in state, county and municipal governments."
Abandoned houses, neglected properties and an increasing number of people leaving the area were also evidence of the reality Maroun described.
The answer, she said, is to support the needs of the people by supporting ADK Works.
Little applauded the efforts of the new organization and called the young people who leave the area "our greatest export."
"Each of you who is here today is making a statement," Little said. "This community can be labeled as a can-do community with the ultimate amount of perseverance. In spite of everything, you persevere. This (the ACR) is a wonderful, wonderful project that we're all going to benefit from."
Mayor Maroun urged the people of Tupper Lake to continue exhibiting that perseverance.
"The people who have supported the Adirondack Club and Resort, the sponsors, for 10 years have put out time, energy, and hundreds and thousands - in fact, millions - of dollars to move this project along to see it now sitting in an appellate review from a group of people who call themselves environmentalists," Mayor Maroun said. "I call them obstructionists."
He told the crowd to keep their heads up and to continue writing letters and getting their voices heard.
After the speakers finished addressing the enthusiastic crowd, LaValley told the Enterprise that the primary goal of ADK Works is to redirect discussions on the ACR back to economics.
"Tupper Lake is sort of the flash point for this great debate," LaValley said. "It's about getting people from around the state who are involved with the decision making to understand what Tupper Lake is faced with, and then to show them that what is happening in Tupper Lake has ramifications on a statewide level. The New York State Association of Realtors saw that, and they agreed that this is an important mission."
The next step, he said, is to begin discussions with various media outlets to remind the state that the people who live in the region are an integral element of the Adirondack Park.
"One of the interesting things is we did a survey before this launch, and we went to different communities to find out what's important to them," LaValley said. "What rose to the top over and over again was the economy. Yes, we care about the environment, but people are scared right now. People need to begin to recognize that people in the Park are a resource. The Park was originally designed and established as a test of human and natural systems. I think we get an A-plus as far as protecting the natural ecosystems, but I think we've failed in protecting the human ecosystem."