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'Endangered species' gathers at VIC

Magazine reporter's article discussed

Part-time Adirondack resident Sandi Lewis chats with Brian Mann and Paul Hai following a discussion on towns in the Park Sept. 30.

Part-time Adirondack resident Sandi Lewis chats with Brian Mann and Paul Hai following a discussion on towns in the Park Sept. 30. Photo by John Grybos.

— Adirondack towns need leadership and unity as times change and government budgets shrink, said panelists at the Visitors Interpretive Center Sept. 30.

Reporter Brian Mann's article “The Other Endangered Species” in October's Adirondack Life Magazine sparked a panel dicussion Friday, with another planned Oct. 5 in Lake Placid.

The article has created a lively dialogue around the park, said Elizabeth Folwell, Adirondack Life's creative director. These panels are a forum to carry the debate into a public space.

“We want to smoke out ideas,” Folwell said. “You can only do so much on Facebook.”

What the park lacks, said Mann, is central thinking and leadership. When town officials or businesspeople hit a wall in their projects, there's nobody on the other end of a phone call for guidance, he contends.

In his article, Mann proposed the Adirondack Park Agency take up that role. Other organizations could be the unifying catalyst for community revitalization, but so far, nobody's stepped up, Mann said.

One of the ideas with the most weight in the evening's discussion was creating employment in the park.

Brad Dake, who chairs the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project, said, “We have old people, very few young people. Our young people are leaving.”

Paul Hai of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who maintain the Visitors Center, said the dominance of tourism in the local economy can be problematic.

“We all know the dangers of monoculture,” Hai said. One crop is more vulnerable to disease, insects and weather than a diverse garden. Extend that idea to the economy, said Hai. Focusing on tourism will leave no options and a vulnerable workforce.

John Warren, who runs AdirondackAlmanack.com, was invited to attend after he posted “An open letter to Brian Mann,” on the site. It was critical of Mann's assertions that the park's towns were in trouble.

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