Can The APA Rediscover Its Park Mission?
By David Gibson, Managing Partner, Adirondack Wild
Ever since his resignation from the Adirondack Park Agency last December, Chad Dawson (now a member of Adirondack Wild’s board of directors) has been reflecting on the APA during its 50th anniversary and what the agency must strive for in order to regain the public’s trust that it will carry out its basic legislative purpose: “to insure optimum overall conservation, protection, preservation, development and use of the unique scenic, aesthetic, wildlife, recreational, open space, historic, ecological and natural resources of the Adirondack Park.”
At our September 24th Annual Meeting in North Creek, keynote speaker Chad Dawson listed six critical goals for the APA to regain its effectiveness, goals that Adirondack Wild also embraces and will share with Governor Kathy Hochul and her team:
- Leadership: APA members serve the public, not any one Governor. APA has been without a chair for over two years. This greatly weakens an independent agency like APA in its legislated role as a check and balance on the much larger NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. A dynamic leadership team must be reinstated at the APA.
- Strategic planning: Who is planning for the entire park and public these days? For some time, APA has largely lost its public planning role and staff and been reduced to review and approve every private application that comes before it. This reduction of APA’s public planning role underprepares park communities for climate change. The carrying capacity of the Park’s lakes and ponds are neglected as one consequence, as is planning for long-distance hiking and paddling opportunities.
- Monitoring of change: The Adirondack Park will increasingly become a refuge region as people migrate to the Park to escape the climate impacts they face near the coastlines. APA must gain more capacity to expertly monitor trends brought on by climate alterations to the park’s communities of life, growth in park human populations, and to help prepare park communities to become more resilient.
- Staffing: APA staff once thought of their jobs as much as a personal and professional calling as well as a job. Fresh, dynamic leadership is required to help the hard-working APA staff regain their sense of and personal obligation to agency mission and purpose.
- State Legislature: The State Legislature should once again consider the Adirondack Park a vital statewide resource and priority in need of their attention. From conservation subdivision design, to the neglected program of adding new Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers, to the State Land Master Plan, to new APA nominations, the Legislature needs to re-engage and seek to strengthen 50 year old Adirondack statutes.
- Education and engagement: Without its former visitor interpretive centers or sub-offices spread around the park, when will APA once again consider its role as a regional educator? APA can do much better to communicate how and why its legislated responsibilities are carried out to achieve statewide public objectives and expectations.