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Third-class citizens in a first-world country

For many years, I have provided weekly columns, centered on outdoor recreation for two local publishing companies. One based in Elizabethtown and the other in Saranac Lake. The publications reach a broad, but limited, audience. Mainly, they serve local Adirondack residents, although its likely that tourists also pick them up. In the course of my brief career as a columnist, I've received numerous phone calls, letter and emails spanning a wide range of topics. I feel fortunate that readers are willing to share personal stories of their outdoor adventures and sporting accomplishments with me. Often, readers share much more. The most common theme, among the expected correspondence concerning brook trout and bucks, is the overriding frustration with the difficulty or some say futility of making a home and earning a living in the park. Increasingly, this festering frustration has boiled over to outright resentment. Often the target is the state, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) or any one of a cartel of environmental advocacy groups seeking to protect the precious Adirondacks. Historically, the Adirondacks have been exploited. Initially it was for fur, as beaver pelts became the first commodity of the New World. Slowly, the value came in land, as tracts were dispensed after the Revoltionary War. Later came timber, iron mining and other extractive industries. Finally, after the Civil War, the vast North Woods settled into a service based ecomomy, as city dwellers sought fresh air, clean water and new adventures. As these 19th century urbanites vacated the grime and gloom of their cities, they became known as vacationers. North they traveled, to the grand hotels, the great camps and the great wilderness of the Adirondacks, fueling the heydays of the Adirondacks, as steamboats, stage coaches and guides ferried sports to a whole new world. Prior to the turn of the 20th century, protectionists (a term equally applied as preservationists) recognized a need to preserve the region from further exploitation in order to protect a vast watershed for the sake of downstate cities. Eventually, this idea radicalized into the protection of the land for its inherent natural attributes and the Adirondack Forest Preserve was born, to provide a Central Park for the world. The park remains intact today, possibly a wilder state than in 1885, due to such forward thinking concepts. The natural world still remains the regions main attraction and, a century and few decades hence, service is still the major industry, catering to tourists, resorts, hotels and increasingly wealthy camp or second home owners. A typical email comes from a local caretaker, voicing concerns over a new generation of owners. Ive worked for the (family) for three decades.. now (Junior) is in charge and wants everything itemized, correlated and recorded. He needs to know the mileage on the camp truck, the cost of shingles and the color of the paint...I care for the property like its my own.. There just isnt any trust anymore..and (I'm) treated like a child. So too the voices of Albany, who created the APA to protect the Adirondacks from Adirondackers. The agencys recent decision to fine Essex County for attaching a whip antenna to a public safety building is the latest example of this line of thought. Essex County may pay the $1,000 fine, yet the funds come from taxpayers. There must be some balance and common sense figured into the equation. There is also a growing need for a fair, representative and equitable approach to land management issues in the park.This has caused endless dispair among Adirondack residents. In the park, well financed, highly effective, environmental advocacy groups exert a powerful influence on most land management issues. These are professional lobbyists who are afforded easy and undo access to the chambers of power as a result of long term relationships. They can moblize a citizens campaign by emailing the latest Action Alert to tens of thousands dues paying members when seeking to protect the most current gem of the Adirondacks. What will they do when the parks final gem is selected, corrected and protected. Although I do believe they serve a valuable need, they must extend greater consideration to the people of the park. Wilderness cant exist without people to enjoy it. While the omnipresent frustration evident in readers emails may have fueled this column, the spark that lit the fuse occurred when I returned home from vacation last week. I had visited a small Mexican fishing village, a 35 mile boat ride from the nearest settlement. The community, on the edge of the Sierra Madres mountains, received electric power only seven years ago, yet they had both cell service and high speed internet connections. Last year, while vacationing in the remote reaches of Jamacia, far up the Black River by ferry, I witnessed little kids using cell phones. So it was the previous year, when I visited the bombed out ruins of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. A small finger of an island, battered by two consecutive hurricanes with an infrastructure in shambles. Yet they had cell service and the few surviving internet cafes maintained high speed service. Back from vacation this year, I attempted a cell phone call from my own front yard. As usual, there was no reception, despite the fact that I live less than a quarter mile from the regional headquarters of three state agencies, and two prisons. I'm not saying that cell phone reception is essential everywhere. I actually abhor the damn devices and believe there is a need for places on this earth where one can escape modern technology. Cell phones are intrusive and an affront to individual privacy, but that is not the point. It is that I live in one of the most prosperous states, in the wealthiest and most technologically advanced country on the planet, and yet I cant attain even the simpliest communication abilities currently available to the poorest citizens of 3rd world countries--something is desperately wrong with this picture. Have we become 3rd class citizens of a 1st world country in a no class state? A wave of resentment has been brewing across the park for years now. I fear what will happen when it finally crashes to shore! Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net

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