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Monday, January 1, 2018

10 hopes for the New Year

It’s January, time for a fresh, blank sheet on which to start our new year. Plenty of us are making renewed attempts at weight loss or looking to get better organized or at least vowing to break our addiction to twenty-four-hour cable news.

Here at the Explorer, we’re renewing our hopes for smart decision-making in the Adirondacks and more chances to work together to ensure that the Park that we all love so much is protected for generations to come.

Here are ten hopes we have for 2018.

With many more people hitting the trails in the Adirondacks, we hope for a plan for more rangers and a smart idea for parking near the busiest trailheads.

1.  A Wilderness classification for the Boreas Ponds that doesn’t allow people to drive all the way to the ponds, but allows parking within two and a half miles of them. OK, even to get a classification decision for the lands, purchased by the state in 2016 and discussed in public hearings that ended a year ago, onto the Adirondack Park Agency agenda for discussion would be a hopeful sign for the new year and for the Forest Preserve.

2. Speaking of talking about issues in the open, let’s hope for some openness from our governor and DEC with the New York State taxpayers regarding the Adirondacks. Don’t make us decipher subtle references in a State of the State speech to figure out what you are planning for our Park. Don’t hold months of public meetings where people hear and weigh in on four proposals for the classification of the Boreas Ponds, only to talk privately about putting yurts on the lands.

3. We hope that in 2018, Iowa Pacific will come to its senses and move those ugly rail cars off the tracks in the middle of the Adirondack Park. Environmentalists are currently stuffing Warren Buffett’s mailbox with letters encouraging such a move, and now Governor Cuomo will file a petition to the federal Surface Transportation Board to force their removal. If this works, let’s hope the state considers challenging the easement that allows the railroad on the Forest Preserve, which isn’t being used for its original purpose anyway. The tracks have not been used for actual train traffic since 1989. Maybe you’re already working on this, Governor Cuomo and Department of Environmental Conservation. Can you let us know? See previous “hope.”

4. DEC, please cross your t’s and dot your i’s so plans can move forward for a thirty-four-mile rail trail for biking, hiking, and snowmobiling. In September, acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Main ruled in favor of rail-trail opponents, saying state agencies violated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and historic-preservation law when approving the trail. The state also doesn’t have clear title to a small portion of the track in question. Too bad these issues weren’t worked out before the state decided it was OK to move forward with the plans for the rail trail, but perhaps the state in 2018 can work to satisfy the judge’s objections.

5. Let’s keep on working together to create a robust economy for the Adirondack Park that is dependent on the beauty and wildness of this exceptional, one-of-a-kind place. We love what you’re doing, Cloudsplitter Outfitters, to take advantage of new state lands with new guided trips, and same to you, Square Eddy Expeditions, for that cool new OK Slip Falls hiking and rafting trip, and you, Hub on the Hill in Essex, for supporting the Champlain region’s agriculture with a place for farmers to come together to cook, package, and market their foods. There are too many more to name here, which is a good thing.

6. And while we’re working together, we can combine efforts from all ends of the Park, where different groups are looking for solutions to some of the same challenges—such as clean water, use of road salt, and invasive species—and come up with solutions together. What’s being learned on one lake is good for all lakes.

7. We hope 2018 brings further development of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, which started as a series of essays about the lack of diversity in the Adirondacks, became a conversation with several public forums, and is now an organization with a staff member handling communications and outreach and a strategic plan to keep the momentum going.

8. 2018 should also bring a workable parking solution along the Route 73 corridor—whether it’s limited parking, or parking permits, or an Uber service for backcountry recreation—something has to be done before we have a tragedy there.   

9. Because the Adirondacks are so spectacular, tens of thousands are taking to the trails during peak seasons (check our time-lapse video of 550 people on Cascade Mountain one day in October at AdirondackExplorer.org). At the same time, there are fewer rangers today than there were in 1970, and yet there were 130 search-and-rescue missions in 1970 and 356 in 2016. That’s easy math, even for word people like us at the Explorer. We hope this gets a serious look in 2018.

10. Like them or not, drones are here to stay. We’re hearing from many hikers about being buzzed and annoyed by drones while they’re on summits. 2018 is a good time for a clear policy from DEC that complies with the Federal Aviation Administration on drones. Currently, drones can’t be launched, operated, or landed on Wilderness lands per DEC. But if a drone is launched outside the Wilderness boundary, they can be flown over Wilderness. Confusing, right? We think so.

If all or even one or two of these can be accomplished in 2018, it will be a Happy New Year.

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