I was surprised by a comment by Colin Beier, an ecologist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in “Future of open space.” Professor Beier thinks there’s no longer a development threat to the Adirondacks because, as he points out, the Adirondack Park is losing population.
It’s true that the year-round Adirondack population has diminished somewhat in recent years. But the threat from destructive development comes not from permanent residents of the Park but from those who live outside the region and want to own their own “piece of the wilderness” as a weekend and seasonal retreat. The dream of having a second home here has accounted for the steady growth in residential development, and the degradation of the Park’s lakeshores and water quality, during the four decades since the APA Act took effect.
The APA’s shoreline protections are especially weak. Great swaths of vegetation can be removed between house and lake, and malfunctioning septic systems are a serious problem. Storm-water runoff, a major threat to water quality, is not even mentioned in the APA Act. Conspicuous “trophy homes” are popping up on mountainsides and ridges, compromising the natural character of the Park.
Earlier this year, the APA approved the Adirondack Club & Resort development for Tupper Lake. This project covers more than six thousand acres and would carve out dozens of fifty-to-hundred-acre lots on open-space land that is supposed to be protected under the APA law.
There are now twice as many houses in the Adirondacks as there were in 1971, when the state legislature created the Adirondack Park Agency. The number of houses in the Park is steadily increasing. Some of this development is properly regulated, but much of it is not. The threat from overdevelopment needs to be addressed if we are to protect the integrity of the Adirondack Park for future generations.
Dick Beamish, Saranac Lake
Beamish, founder and former publisher of the Adirondack Explorer, was on the staff of the fledgling Adirondack Park Agency from 1972 to 1978.