The Adirondack Park is a part of New York's Forest Preserve in Upstate New York, United States. The park is big, covering about 6.1 million acres (2.5×106 ha), more than the National Parks of Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains combined. Within the park are more than 10,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a wide variety of habitats including wetlands and old-growth forests.
Unlike most preserves, about 57 per cent of the land is privately-owned inholdings heavily regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency. This area contains 102 towns and villages, farms, small businesses, and timber harvesting.
It has a year-round population of about 132,000, in addition to about 200,000 seasonal residents. About 84 million people live within a day's drive of the park, one quarter of them in Canada. The inclusion of human communities makes the park one of the great experiments in conservation in the industrialized world.
The park's boundary corresponds to a geologically-defined bioregion, the Adirondack uplift. The ecological state of the area is similar to that before the arrival of Europeans.
- 1 History
- 2 Development and industry
- 3 Park management
- 4 Conservation
- 5 Tourism and recreation
- 6 References
For the history of the area before the formation of the park, see The History of the Adirondack Mountains.
Before the 19th century the wilderness was viewed as desolate and forbidding. As Romanticism developed in the United States, the view of wilderness became more positive, as seen in the writings of James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The 1849 publication of Joel Tyler Headley's Adirondack; or, Life in the Woods triggered the development of hotels and stage coach lines. William Henry Harrison Murray's 1869 wilderness guidebook depicted the area as a place of relaxation and pleasure rather than a natural obstacle.
Financier and railroad promoter Thomas Clark Durant acquired a large tract of central Adirondack land and built a railroad from Saratoga Springs to North Creek. By 1875, there were more than two hundred hotels in the Adirondacks including Paul Smith's Hotel. About this time, the Great Camps were developed.
Moves to protect New York's water supply
in 1870 Verplanck Colvin made the first recorded ascent of Seward Mountain during which he saw the extensive damage done by lumbermen. He wrote a report which was read at the Albany Institute and printed by the New York State Museum of Natural History. In 1872 he was named to the newly created post of Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey and given a $1000 budget by the state legislature to institute a survey of the Adirondacks.
In 1873 he wrote a report arguing that if the Adirondack watershed was allowed to deteriorate, it would threaten the viability of the Erie Canal, which was then vital to New York's economy. He was subsequently appointed superintendent of the New York state land survey. In 1873, he recommended the creation of a state forest preserve covering the entire Adirondack region.
Article XIV: forever wild
In 1884, a commission chaired by botanist Charles Sprague Sargent recommended establishment of a forest preserve, to be "forever kept as wild forest lands." and in 1885, New York State Legislature designated particular counties in the state as places where Forest Preserve could be acquired in the future. State land in these areas was to be conserved and never put up for sale or lease.
In 1894, Article VII, Section 7, (renumbered in 1938 as Article XIV, Section 1) of the New York State Constitution was adopted, which reads in part:
The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.
In 1902, the legislature passed a bill defining the Adirondack Park for the first time in terms of the counties and towns within it. In 1912 the legislature further clarified that the park included the privately owned lands within as well as the public holdings.
The restrictions on development and lumbering embodied in Article XIV have withstood many challenges from timber interests, hydropower projects, and large-scale tourism development interests. Further, the language of the article, and decades of legal experience in its defence, are widely recognized as having laid the foundation for the U.S. National Wilderness Act of 1964. As a result of the legal protections, many pieces of the original forest of the Adirondacks have never been logged and are old-growth forest.
In 1912 the legislature further clarified that the parks included the privately owned lands within as well as the public holdings.
20th Century development
Early in the 1900s, recreational use increased dramatically. The State Conservation Department (now the DEC) responded by building more facilities: boat docks, tent platforms, lean-tos, and telephone and electrical lines. With the building of the Interstate 87 in the 1960s, private lands came under great pressure for development. This growing crisis led to the 1971 creation of The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to develop long-range land-use plans for both the public and private lands within the Blue Line. In consultation with the DEC, the APA formulated the State Land Master Plan which was adopted into law in 1973. The plan is designed to channel much of the future growth in the Park around existing communities, where roads, utilities, services, and supplies already exist.
Comparison of the Park in 1900 and 2000
|Area of the Park||2,800,000 acres (1,100,000 ha)||6,000,000 acres (2,400,000 ha)|
|State-owned area||1,200,000 acres (490,000 ha) (43%)||2,400,000 acres (970,000 ha) (40%)|
|Travel time, New York City to Old Forge||6.5 hours by railroad||5 hours by car|
|Permanent park residents||100,000||130,000|
|Length of public road in the park||4,154 miles (6,685 km) plus 500 miles (800 km) of passenger railroad track||6,970 miles (11,220 km)|
|Industry||92 sawmills, 15 iron mines, 10 pulp/paper mills||40 sawmills|
In 2008 The Nature Conservancy purchased Follensby Pond - about 14,600 acres (5,900 ha) of private land inside the park boundary - for $16 million. The group plans to sell the land to the state which will add it to the forest preserve once the remaining leases for recreational hunting and fishing on the property expire.
Development and industry
While the park does contain large areas of wilderness, some areas developed to a varying degree.
Census towns with over 5,000 inhabitants include:
- Tupper Lake
- Dannemora, site of the Clinton Correctional Facility.
- Harrietstown includes Saranac Lake.
- North Elba includes Lake Placid, theAdirondack Regional Airport, and the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex.
There are six business parks in Essex County of which two have certified shovel ready sites. There is also two in Franklin County.
The park is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and by the Adirondack Park Agency. This system of management is distinctly different from New York's state park system, which is managed by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. According to the State Land Master Plan, state lands are classified.
The Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan (APLUDP) applies to private land use and development. It defines APA jurisdiction and is designed to direct and cluster development to minimize impact.
Land use classifications
Areas rounded to the nearest per cent. 50% of the park is privately-owned, 44% state owned, and 6% is water.
Private land use
- Resource Management: 51% of private land use. Used for residential, agriculture, and forestry. Most development requires an Agency permit. Limited to an average of 15 buildings per square mile.
- Rural Use: 17%. Most uses are permitted; residential uses and reduced intensity development that preserves rural character is most suitable. Limited to an average of 75 buildings per square mile.
- Low Intensity: 9%. Most uses are permitted; residential development at a lower intensity than hamlet or moderate intensity is appropriate. Limited to an average of 200 of buildings per square mile.
- Moderate Intensity: 3%. Most uses are permitted; residential development is most appropriate. Limited to an average of 500 of buildings per square mile.
- Hamlet: 2%. These are the growth and service centers of the where the APA encourages development with very limited permit requirements. Activities requiring an APA permit are: erecting buildings or structures over 40 feet high, projects involving more than 100 lots, sites or units, projects involving wetlands, airports, and watershed management projects. Hamlet boundaries usually go well beyond established settlements to provide room for future expansion. There is no limit on the average number of buildings per square mile.
- Industrial: <1%. Where industy exists or has existed, and areas which may be suitable for future development. Industrial and commercial uses are also allowed in other land use area classifications. There is no limit on the average number of buildings per square mile.
Adirondack Park state land use
- Wild forest: 51% of state land use. Areas that have seen higher human impact and can thus withstand a higher level of recreational use. Often these are lands which were logged heavily in the recent past (sometimes right before being transferred to the state). Powered vehicles are allowed.
- Wilderness: 46%. These are managed like federal U.S. Wilderness Areas. Areas far more affected by nature than humanity, to the extent that the latter is practically unnoticeable, for example virgin forest. No powered vehicles are allowed in wilderness areas. Recreation is limited to passive activities such as hiking, camping, hunting, birding and angling which are themselves subject to some further restrictions to ensure that they leave no trace.
- Canoe area: <1%. Lands with a wilderness character that have enough streams, lakes and ponds to provide ample opportunities for water-based recreation. The Saint Regis Canoe Area is the only such designated area in the park.
- Primitive: <1%. Like wilderness, but may have structures that cannot easily be removed, or some other existing use that would complicate a wilderness designation. For most practical purposes there is no difference between a primitive area and a wilderness area.
- Intensive Use: <1%. Places like state campgrounds or day use areas. The developed ski area Whiteface Mountain is in this classification.
- Historic: <1%. Sites of buildings owned by the state that are significant to the history, architecture, archaeology or culture of the Adirondacks, those on the National Register of Historic Places or carrying or recommended for a similar state-level designation.
- State Administrative: <1%. Applies to a limited number of DEC-owned lands that are managed for other than Forest Preserve purposes. It covers a number of facilities devoted to research, and state fish hatcheries.
- The Adirondack Council, founded in 1975, is the largest citizen environmental group in New York State. Its mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. It sponsors research, educates the public and policy makers, advocates for policies, and takes legal action when necessary to uphold constitutional protections and agency policies establish to protect the Adirondacks.
- Adirondack Wild, whose goal is to uphold the "forever wild", or Article 14 of the New York Constitution.
- The Wildlife Conservation Society's Adirondack Program
- The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
- The Adirondack Mountain Club has 28,000 members and has an environmental advocacy program that grew out of the need for responsible public policies to protect these lands.
- Founded in 1901, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA) is the oldest non-profit advocate for the long-term protection and health of the natural and human communities of the Adirondack Park. In 2009 it merged with the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA).
The fur trade led to the near extinction of beaver in 1893. Other species, such as the moose, the wolf, and the mountain lion were hunted either for their meat, for sport, or because they were seen as a threat to livestock. Reintroduction efforts for beaver began around 1904 by combining the remaining beaver in the Adirondacks with those of Canada and later on those from Yellowstone The population quickly grew to around 2000 roughly ten years and around 20,000 in 1921 with the addition of beaver in different areas of the Park. Although this reintroduction was marked as a success, the elevated beaver population was found to have negative economic impacts on waterways and timber sources.
The trend of man attempting to manage nature would continue with the introduction of elk to the Adirondacks, a species that is unclear to have ever previously occupied the region. After two previously failed attempts to introduce elk, in 1903 over 150 elks were reported by the State of New York Forest, Fish, and Game Commission to have been released and surviving in the park. The elk population increased for several years only to decline due to poaching. To protect and maintain the elk population in the future, the DeBar Mountain Game Refuge was established within the Forest Preserve. It should be noted that this act of preserving the species was motivated for hunting purposes rather than an ecological or natural aspect. The Game Refuge was defined by a wire fence, numerous postings, and caretakers employed by the State. This effort to control nature was also observed in the actions of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), work crews who established access roads and water supply expansion. A negative result of the CCC coming to the Park was their trapping and killing of "vermin", which were animals such as hawks, owls, fox, and weasels that preyed on other species sought after by hunters and fishermen. This proved to have unanticipated ecological consequences, most notably the overpopulation of deer which was reported by the New York State Conservation Department in 1945.
Ongoing efforts have been made to reintroduce native fauna that had been lost in the park during earlier exploitation. Animals in various stages of reintroduction include the beaver, the fisher, the American marten, the moose, the Canadian lynx, and the osprey. Not all of these restoration efforts have been successful yet. There are 53 known species of mammals that live in the park.
There are more than 3,000 lakes and 30,000 miles (48,000 km) of streams and rivers. Many areas within the park are devoid of settlements and distant from usable roads. The park includes over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of hiking trails; these trails comprise the largest trail system in the nation.
Tourism and recreation
An estimated 7-10 million tourists visit the park annually. There are numerous accommodations, including cabins, hunting lodges, villas and hotels, in and around Lake Placid, Lake George, Saranac Lake, Old Forge, Schroon Lake and the St. Regis Lakes.
Although the climate during the winter months can be severe, with temperatures falling below −30 °F (−34.4 °C), a number of sanatoriums were located there in the early twentieth century because of the positive effect the air had on tuberculosis patients.
Golf courses within the park border include the Ausable Club and the Lake Placid Club. Many of the Adirondack Mountains, such as Whiteface Mountain (Wilmington), Mt. Pisgah (Saranac Lake), and Mt. Morris (Tupper Lake) have been developed as ski areas.
Hunting and fishing are allowed in the Adirondack Park, although in many places there are strict regulations. Because of these regulations, the large tourist population has not overfished the area, and as such, the brooks, rivers, ponds and lakes are home to large trout and black bass populations.
Though restricted from much of the park, snowmobile enthusiasts can ride on a large network of trails.
The Adirondack Park Agency visitor interpretive centers are designed to help orient visitors to the park via educational programs, exhibits, and interpretive trails. Educational programs are available for school groups as well as the general public.
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake offers extensive exhibits about the natural history of the region including a 1,000 foot long series of elevated bridges that rise up over the forest on the Center's campus. Many of the exhibits are live and include native turtles, otter, birds, fish and porcupines. The Center, which is open year round, has trails to a river and pond on its campus.
The Adirondack Museum contains extensive collections about the human settlement of the park.
Hiking and rock climbing
The 46 highest mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks, were thought to be over 4,000 feet (1,219 m) when climbed by brothers Robert and George Marshall between 1918 and 1924. Since that time, surveys have shown that four of these peaks—Blake Peak, Cliff Mountain, Nye Mountain and Couchsachraga Peak—are in fact just under
Some hikers try to climb all of the original 46 peaks, and there is a Forty Sixers club for those who have successfully done so. Twenty of the 46 mountains remain trailless.
The surface of many of the lakes lies at an elevation above 1,500 ft (457 m); their shores are usually rocky and irregular, and the wild scenery within their vicinity has made them very attractive to tourists. It is the site of the Adirondack Canoe Classic. Flatwater and whitewater canoeing and kayaking are very popular. Hundreds of lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams link to provide routes ranging from under one mile (1.6 km) to weeklong treks.
Motorboating is formally restricted on only a few bodies of water.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Largest Park Area in the Contiguous US Remains Open to Visitors". Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism / Lake Placid CVB. October 3, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
- "Adirondack Park Agency Annual Report 2014" (PDF). APA. Retrieved 2015-07-01.
- Adirondack Park Agency - Maps & Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- Porter, William; Erickson, Jon; Whaley, Ross (2009). The Great Experiment in Cconservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park (1st ed. ed.). Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. pp. xxvii–xxxiii. ISBN 978-0815632313.
- Terrie, Phillip G., Forever Wild, Environmental Aesthetics and the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985, p. 98, ISBN 0-87722-380-7
- McMartin, Barbara (1994), "Introduction", in McMartin, Barbara; Long, James McMartin, Celebrating the Constitutional Protection of the Forest Preserve: 1894-1994, Silver Bay, New York: Symposium Celebrating the Constitutional Protection of the Forest Preserve, pp. 9–10
- Woodworth, Neil F. (1994), "Recreational Use of the Forest Preserve under the Forever Wild Clause", in McMartin, Barbara; Long, James McMartin, Celebrating the Constitutional Protection of the Forest Preserve: 1894-1994, Silver Bay, New York: Symposium Celebrating the Constitutional Protection of the Forest Preserve, pp. 27–37
- McMartin, Barbara (1994), The Great Forest of the Adirondacks, Utica, New York: North Country Books, ISBN 0-925168-29-7
- "Adirondack Park History". apa.ny.gov. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
- Martin Espinoza (2008-09-18). "Conservancy Buys Slice of Adirondacks". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- "Adirondack Park Land Use Classification Statistics May 2014". APA. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "About Us". Adirondack Council. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "ARTICLE XIV New York State Constitution". Adirondack Wild. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "Adirondack Landscape, USA". Wildlife Conservation Society. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "History". Protect the Adirondacks!. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
- Omohundro, John; Harris, Glenn R., (2012). An environmental history of New York's north country : the Adirondack Mountains and the St. Lawrence River Valley : case studies and neglected topics (1 ed.). Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 99–111. ISBN 978-0773426283.
- "SUNY-ESF: Adirondack Ecological Center". Esf.edu. Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- A Guide to Rock Climbing and Bouldering in the Adirondack Park, New York. Adirondack Rock. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
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