The classification debate over the Essex Chain Lakes and other newly acquired Forest Preserve is necessary and important; however, a more focused debate over balancing economic development and land preservation in the Adirondack Park is lacking and sorely needed.
We hope this latest debate leads to reform in the way the state manages economic development in the Adirondack Park. This is a unique place, and it deserves a unique management approach. The 40-year-old model simply isn’t working.
Classification — a job for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) — is only the first possible step in redefining economic development and its relation to the Forest Preserve. Then comes the unit management plan, a job for the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). That’s where the real reform should be focused.
From the state of New York’s perspective, the APA should classify the newly Essex Chain Lakes tract wilderness. After all, what’s the point of having Forest Preserve if you’re not going to preserve its natural resources to the most pristine state possible?
From the local perspective, the APA should classify the Essex Chain Lakes wild forest. After all, what the point of having a park if you’re not going to open it up to as many users as possible?
Such is the dilemma the APA has been facing over the past several months.
The APA should side with home rule. Small communities such as Newcomb, Minerva, Indian Lake, Long Lake and North Hudson need an economic boost if they’re going to survive.
With tourism alone, Newcomb will never become the boom town it was when the National Lead mine was in full operation. But that’s not the point. People in Newcomb just want to be able to stay there and make a living. And that’s not too much to ask.
The future of the Adirondack Park is in the hands of the state government, especially as it buys new land for the Forest Preserve and classifies it for specific uses. We’re now at a critical point where a decision needs to be made about classifying the Essex Chain Lakes tract.