What's up at the VICs?

After all, it was only a year ago when then Gov. David Paterson announced in his budget address that the APA would be closing the VICs in Paul Smiths and Newcomb to save over $500,000 annually and help the state close a multi-billion-dollar budget gap. And, as 2010 progressed and the VIC Transition Steering Committee was formulating ideas to keep the two centers open to the public, in one form or another, both colleges had less than a year to come up with solid plans that would fund the buildings' operations.

For many, Jan. 29 was an emotional day at the Chili Ski Tasting event in Paul Smiths. Event organizers from the college and the VIC friends group, the Adirondack Park Institute, were hoping for a warm public reception. The longtime volunteers who had once assisted APA staff with environmental education programs and special events were now working with a new owner they don't know very well. Some former VIC staff and current APA staff were enjoying the festivities, witnessing history in the making while reminiscing about the many memories they had made there. And the public was simply curious.

Susan Sweeney, Paul Smith's College director of human resources, helped organize the Jan. 29 event and was taking photographs during the day. She serves on the VIC Transition Steering Committee and has made many memories herself at the VIC.

"There is so much nostalgia here," Sweeney said in an interview the day before the event. "We want to take what is here, modify it and improve it."

This year, Paul Smith's College will begin transforming the VIC from an interpretive center into a public building with exhibits, programs and new tenants, including the Adirondack Center for Writing, which has outgrown its office space in the college's administration building. In addition to environmental education, there will be an emphasis on outdoor recreation and the arts. And new trail events will be held on the VIC property, which was initially a 2,885-acre preserve owned by the college and leased by the APA. A new lease agreement in 2009 reduced the preserve to about 1,400 acres. The college owns more than 14,000 acres.

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