Still, those representatives will have to struggle to be heard in a group whose primary focus is on more urban areas outside the Adirondack Park. Plans to create 10 jobs might have the same beneficial impact on an Adirondack town as 100 new jobs in a nearby city. Which project is more likely to get the REDC’s attention?
Long term, it would be better for the Adirondacks — both economically and environmentally — if there was one, state-funded economic development plan developed just for the Adirondack Park. It is our hope that Gov. Cuomo will recognize the Adirondack Park’s uncommon circumstances and develop a new, game-changing approach. There are many logical and financially beneficial changes he can make by rearranging some of his own agencies and refocusing their energies on vital issues.
There is no reason, for example, for the Department of Environmental Conservation to manage the Adirondack Forest Preserve from two regional offices, one of which is not even located inside the park. This leads to inconsistent policies and confusion about why DEC exercises its discretion differently on the eastern two-thirds of the park’s public lands (Region 5) than it does in the western one-third (Region 6).
The Adirondack Park Agency is the only state agency whose sole focus is on the park. Yet the agencies that were supposed to be integrated into the APA’s work — DEC, the Department of State and Empire State Development Corporation — don’t do the same. Each should have a full time effort focused on the Adirondack Park, perhaps in the same office complex as the Park Agency. They already occupy seats as agency designees to the APA. Isn’t it time to consider a one-stop-shop approach to achieve a more cost-effective and efficient delivery of state goods and services?
In fact, it makes sense to consider combining the work of all four into a single Adirondack Park Administration. Because the park is larger than most New England states, it should have branch offices spread around the park. This would curb the need for residents to travel long distances to attend public meetings, apply for permits or seek assistance with community-development grants and business loans.
The Park Agency/Administration would finally be able to serve the unique economic needs of the Adirondack Park communities. It would support sustainable, compatible economic development while protecting water quality, wildlife and the park’s wild character.
John F. Sheehan is the director of communications for the Adirondack Council.