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VIC friends group building a new future

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

PAUL SMITHS - History has shown that the Adirondack Park Institute's tag line - "Teaching a Generation to Care" - was almost taken literally. Now, 22 years after it was founded, the group is poised to teach many more generations.

When Adirondack Park Agency (APA) officials announced in January 2010 that they would be dissolving the Interpretive Programs Division and leaving the Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs) in Paul Smiths and Newcomb by the end of the year, the VIC friends group - the API - was faced with un uncertain future.

After all, the not-for-profit group was created specifically to fund educational programming - for school kids, families, and the general public - at the two VICs in 1989, the same year the Paul Smiths VIC opened (the Newcomb VIC opened in 1990). With its office located at the Paul Smiths VIC, the API and the state-run VICs were joined at the hip, so to speak. It was a unique public-private partnership, a model for visitor/education centers around the nation.

The API board was left with the question, "What would happen to the API if the VICs closed for good?"

The year 2010 proved to be a pivotal and emotional one for API officials. While the mission remains the same, the partners have changed. API board members will now be teaching generations to care with Paul Smith's College at the Paul Smiths VIC and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb.

"Both colleges said to the API, 'Work with us,'" said API Executive Director Dan Fitts, who was hired in 2010. "People love the VICs, and nobody wants them to close, especially us."

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