The transition of the VICs is almost complete. Now it's time for the public to put its money where its mouth is and help keep these facilities going strong.
A year ago, supporters of the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs) were scrambling to fight the possible closure of the centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb. It was budget time for the state, and the APA was faced with shutting down its Interpretive Programs Division. Tensions were high. It was an emotional time for everyone, especially those, like me, who love the VICs.
You see, I worked for the VICs for eight years - as the public relations guy from 2001 to 2009. My friends were faced with layoffs. More importantly, I had seen firsthand how beneficial the VICs were to educating the public about the Adirondack environment. So I fought to keep the VICs open along with dozens of other supporters, writing my fair share of letters to our elected representatives, who were more intent on saving prison jobs than saving the VICs. It seemed like a losing battle, even as a VIC Transition Steering Committee was formed to find new owner/operators for the centers. But there was a happy ending.
A year later, now that SUNY-ESF and Paul Smith's College have "saved the VICs" and are running the buildings, the future seems bright. The trails are open. Programs will continue. The Adirondack Park Institute -the VIC friends group since 1989 - will still be educating the public about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Park. And both centers will be open to the public with expanded missions that will explore the natural and cultural assets of the region.
I give credit to the APA for keeping its word and finding new owners for the VICs, now called the Paul Smiths VIC and the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb. It wasn't an easy process, but the results were positive. I applaud SUNY-ESF and Paul Smith's College for making the commitment to keep the centers open to the public. And I thank the API for continuing its mission to "teach a generation to care." After all, this is what the public was fighting for in March 2010.