NEWCOMB — With gala celebration, new science and arts integration, the local visitor interpretive centers have re-established roots in the Adirondack Park.
The sites, in Newcomb and Paul Smiths, were founded more than two decades ago as part of an Adirondack Park Agency educational mission.
When the state divested its role in interpretation due to budget cuts nearly two years ago, colleges stepped in to keep the centers alive. Paul Smith’s College assumed maintenance and supervision of the center at Paul Smiths, and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has reinvigorated the Visitor Center at Newcomb.
Now called the Newcomb Adirondack Interpretive Center, outreach is meshing nicely with both public and college programs, according to Paul Hai, program coordinator at the College of Environmental Sciences’s Northern Forest Institute, also based in Newcomb.
Interpretation is a critical piece of tourism in the Adirondack Park, Hai said, one that satisfies both curiosity and safety, as families and newcomers learn to traverse the wilderness. Finding ways to help everyday explorers reach deeper into the park is also key to economic growth in the rural mountain communities.
“One of the important roles we serve is to show how to explore the Adirondacks. At either center, people can learn how a trail works, how to follow a trail, what markers look like, what they are finding on a trail or on the waterways. The two centers are just critical in that role,” Hai said.
With 2 million acres of state-owned land open for public exploration, sometimes park guests have no idea what to expect. The visitor centers were designed to provide in-depth snapshots of wildlife, habitat, forest use, conservation, land use, trail management, trail safety and wilderness exposure in a relatively contained area.
Seeking new ways to reach visitors, directors at Newcomb’s center spent last year doing what the college does best, educating themselves.