What's up at the VICs?

The chili, hot drinks and cake made for a party-type atmosphere on Jan. 29. It showed that the building was slowly coming back to life again after sitting empty, save for a few maintenance workers, for 28 days. APA staff had closed the building to the public at the end of the day on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 - Columbus Day weekend - so they could pack up and move out before literally giving it to Paul Smith's College on Jan. 1. The trails remained open throughout the transition.

In Newcomb, the two-phase transition began in June 2010 and finished six months later. Originally, the Paul Smiths and Newcomb buildings were expected to be handed over to new owners on Jan. 1, 2011, with the APA staff given that long to keep their jobs; however, since the SUNY-ESF fiscal year begins on July 1, it was decided to give the building to the college - "turn-key" style - at that time. Therefore, June 30 was the last day the APA owned the Newcomb VIC. APA staff continued to offer public programming there until Dec. 30, their last day of APA employment. SUNY-ESF took over programming on Jan. 1 at the newly named Adirondack Interpretive Center, which sits on 236 acres in the college-managed Huntington Wildlife Forest.

Like his colleagues at Paul Smith's College, Paul Hai, program coordinator at SUNY-ESF's AIC and nearby Adirondack Ecological Center, is also trying to reassure the public that the Newcomb building is still open. And while the mission will change, with interpretation of the Adirondack Park's natural and cultural resources as a focus rather than visitor services, the college has made it clear that there are many years of public education left at the Newcomb facility.

"We are here for the long haul," said Hai, who has worked closely with VIC staff on programs since moving to Newcomb in 2008. "The APA made a tough choice ... We're really hoping we can lessen that blow by keeping this center open."

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