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Karen Feldman takes APA chair

Karen Feldman, who has been on the APA board since 2013, took over as acting chair at this month’s meeting. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

RAY BROOK — For the third time in two years, the state Adirondack Park Agency has a new chairperson as APA board member Karen Feldman took the helm after the previous chair, Sherman Craig, announced his retirement last month.

Feldman has been on the APA board since 2013 and was appointed as acting chair after Craig’s retirement. Craig replaced Lani Ulrich in the summer of 2016 when Ulrich left the board at the end of her four-year term. APA board members are nominated by the governor and then have to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Feldman lives in Columbia County but has camps in both Essex and Hamilton counties, and if nominated and approved as chair, she would become the first out-of-park head of the agency.

“I’m excited by it. I’ve gotten great response and support from everybody, and I’m going to continue a lot of the stuff that Sherm set us on the course to do,” Feldman said after Thursday’s monthly board meeting in Ray Brook. “I have some thoughts on doing this, and I think it’s a great time in the park to accomplish some of these things. We’re just in a good place right now.”

The APA, one of the most contentious agencies in the state, has had some huge issues in front of it in recent years, including the planned development of a rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, the classification of tens of thousands of acres of land, and major upgrades to state-owned facilities such Whiteface and Gore mountain ski centers and the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg. But Feldman said there’s still a lot on the agency’s plate.

“I think there’s still a lot to do,” she said. “We have to figure out carrying capacity — we have a task force for that — and complex planning throughout the Adirondacks. We still have a lot to do in the High Peaks and Boreas; we’ve got Frontier Town going, so there are a lot of things out there.

“But I think it’s a good time to be focusing on these things because everybody is working together and everyone is exchanging ideas. I think for the residents of the park — the people who live (and) work here — this is going to be great.”

Earlier this year, the APA approved a state Department of Environmental Conservation plan that created an expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area of more than a quarter-million acres. The plan combined the High Peaks with the adjacent Dix Mountain Wilderness utilizing recently purchased tracts of land, including the Boreas Ponds tract. Although the expansion was largely celebrated, DEC officials admit in the plan that the number of people entering the Adirondack backcountry needs to be studied and addressed.

“I’m excited about what we’re doing with the High Peaks and Boreas, (but) it’s one step at a time,” Feldman said. “We’re having these monitoring plans, which is actually going to monitor what’s going on. How much (and) is there overuse? And that’s going to help us determine what carrying capacity is.

“And we’re going to use that in a lot of these other UMPs (unit management plans). We’re really going to look at what’s going on in there; what works, what doesn’t work. I like the fact that DEC is doing things in phases, and we’re going to see how they work. And if they don’t work, we’re going to adapt and change them because at the end of the day it’s about protecting the resource.

“Having that ability to adapt makes all the difference in the world, and I’m not sure we’ve had that in a lot of these UMP. I think it’s going to be better for the public (and) better for our resources.”

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