ELIZABETHTOWN — A Task Force has unveiled priorities that it suggests would strengthen the Adirondack Park, both as a Forever Wild landscape and a forever viable place to live and work.
The five priorities balance economic growth against environmental protection.
The core message in a final report just released by the Blue Line Strategy Task Force states: "The greatest threat to the highly sensitive environment of the Adirondack Park is the continued economic decline of the park's communities."
The Task Force was formed 10 months ago at the request of Adirondack lawmakers in Albany.
The findings call for state-agency redistricting and streamlined regulatory coordination inside the Blue Line that embraces economic initiative.
The report recommends a comprehensive park recreation plan to go hand in hand with economic opportunity.
A FIRM STEP
The strategy also seeks a sustainable fund to upgrade infrastructure in Adirondack hamlets that the Task Force says limit — and even hinder — economic growth.
What is perhaps most notable about the five suggestions is the firm step they take toward a holistic policy.
Members of the Task Force delivered their report to Adirondack lawmakers in Albany and are methodically presenting it to state agencies and local government boards.
George Leveille, fiscal and community adviser for Harris Beach PLLC and president of Lake Placid Lacrosse, is spokesman for the group.
"There are some implementation strategies worthy of note in this," he said. "For instance, development of a park-wide Recreation Master Plan — there is a real opportunity to sew the line with recreational uses together with environmental policy. The park is unique in the way it is regulated and therefore unique in the opportunity for economic growth.
"I think there are real options to develop green economic investment solutions that correspond with the greening of the world."
As a member of the Task Force, Carol Calabrese, co-executive director of the Essex County Industrial Development Agency, presented a brief outline of the report to Essex County Board of Supervisors recently.
"At the end of the day, the economic well-being of the Adirondack Park's community is the best way to ensure the park's incredible and healthy and natural environment," she said.
"We need (economic) programs targeting park communities, which, as we know, do not have the numbers that communities outside of the Blue Line have for job creation and retention."
Calabrese said they presented the report to Adirondack caucus lawmakers Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywomen Janet Duprey (R-Peru) and Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro).
Jim LaValley, a Realtor and chairman of Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving Their Economy in Tupper Lake, also worked on the Task Force.
"The great part about the group was that we covered the full spectrum of interests, from those who lean stronger toward the economic development side to those who lean stronger toward the environmental side."
He said their focus on common elements pulled them through constructive periods of disagreement.
Many of New York's small-business and community development programs don't fit unique aspects of the park, LaValley said.
And there is no central clearinghouse adjusting for balance in protecting both livelihoods and wilderness.
"Admittedly, the Adirondack Park Agency has had one person on their staff that dealt with economic issues," LaValley said.
"A true balance would have staff to manage both environmental and economic issues. We can see that the hamlet areas have been impacted in a negative way by successful preservation, and we are looking to strengthen hamlets as an economic base."
Jim McKenna, president and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, helped coordinate the think-tank sessions.
"We found from all different perspectives that times have changed economically and environmentally in the Adirondacks and that both environmental protection and economic growth can be accomplished in harmony," he said.
"The ways of the past aren't producing results for either side."
Park-specific regulation imbued with economic opportunity would make a distinct mark in New York and around the planet.
"The Adirondack brand is achieved by everybody understanding what we have here," McKenna said.
The Blue Line Strategy Task Force isn't the first group to work toward streamlining policy, economics and Adirondack Park-specific regulation.
But it delivered a plan to Albany in fewer than six months.
"One of the things we recognize is that there are groups all over the place with ideas like this," Leveille said.
"We are suggesting a clearinghouse for diverse interests to begin to work together toward a strategy to complement all of them."
Email Kim Smith Dedam at: firstname.lastname@example.org