What's up at the VICs?

(Editor's note: This is Part One of a five-part series on the current status of the Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs), which were operated by the Adirondack Park Agency from 1989 to 2010.)

PAUL SMITHS - Fresh snow blanketed tree branches in the forest, the sun glowed in the blue sky, and temperatures hovered around 20 degrees. Ski event coordinators dream of conditions like these, and Saturday, Jan. 29 had all the makings for a day filled with family fun.

Yet, as the Chili Ski Tasting event got under way at the Paul Smiths VIC, everyone was a little uneasy.

It was the same building, but with a new owner. Paul Smith's College officials didn't know what to expect, and, as they searched for light switches and electrical outlets in their newest building, they had one big question on their minds: Would people come and enjoy themselves like they had for the past decade of ski festivals when the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) owned the building?

By early afternoon, their question had been answered, and they breathed a collective sigh of relief as dozens of families did indeed come and enjoy themselves, eating chili and cake made by culinary arts students, skiing and snowshoeing on the vast trail system groomed the day before, and taking sleigh rides with two of the college's draft horses. The smiles were proof that people had a good time, and the event -aimed at showing everyone that the trails are still open to the public - was deemed a success.

While this was the first event since Paul Smith's College took over the 24,500-square-foot building from the APA on Jan. 1, the transformation from a Visitor Interpretive Center to the college's version of the VIC is still in its formative stages. Officials at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), too, are still trying to define the role of their new Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) in Newcomb, formerly known as the Newcomb VIC, after taking over the 6,000-square-foot building on July 1, 2010 and the public programming on Jan. 1.

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