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Traditional foes debate Adirondack issues

LONG LAKE - For the third year, traditionally contentious groups sat under one roof and conducted a civil, day-long conversation about the pressing issues in the Adirondack Park - primarily the local economies which are stressed, good times and bad.

Included in the discussion was a pledge by Adirondack Park Agency officials to attempt to amend the APA Act to make it work better for everyone involved.

The annual Common Ground Alliance meeting was held Wednesday in Long Lake, and it featured a diverse group of people and opinions, all of whom agreed that something must be done to reinvent the Adirondack economy.

Balance was the most referenced term, as over 100 local government, state and environmental organization officials hashed out the best approach boost jobs, income and opportunity.

Many officials expressed concern over the findings of the recently released Adirondack Park Review and Assessment Project report, which concluded that Adirondack Park residents are older, poorer and less educated than other upstate residents. It also found that area youth are leaving the region at extremely high rates in pursuit of greater economic opportunity, and the fabric of Adirondack life is fading as empty vacation homes replace year-round residences on the landscape.

Terry Martino, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Agency, said that balance is the key and the goal of the Alliance.

"There has to be a commitment to economic sustainability as well as environmental stewardship," Martino said.

Local officials have argued for decades that over-regulation is choking small Adirondack towns and resulting in an apparent brain-drain. But for Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages President and Town of Wells Supervisor Brian Towers, the discourse was welcome.

"This is the first time I have heard people who you would think are at the extremes come into the middle," Towers said. "We are hearing from the environmentalists that they support economic development where it is suitable."

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