By Brandon Loomis
The Adirondack Explorer heads into 2021 the same way we and inquiring readers begin every year: with lots of questions.
What will the Department of Environmental Conservation do about managing hikers and trails in the High Peaks? Will the Adirondack Mountain Reserve institute its own limits on access to these popular areas? We try not to make too many prediction in the news business, but it’s safe to say that the Explorer will follow this one closely over the coming months, and this important debate will make headlines. More than that, it’s a topic we intend to address with the in-depth, solutions-oriented reporting that such a focal point for the Adirondacks deserves.
We’re not done with road salt, either. Having spent much of 2020 chronicling the scourge and the state’s history of avoiding responsibility, next year will likely be about looking ahead. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a bill authorizing study and prioritization of road salt reduction, and we’ll follow where that leads.
A key topic sure to arise early in the year is state funding for care of the Adirondack Park, its trails, trailheads, ranger force, water protections and other crucial programs. Cuomo started last year with a grand plan for billions in natural investments, but it fell apart after the coronavirus cast a shadow over state finances. That shadow has not lifted. What will it mean for our park’s resources and people?
The year is likely to bring some clarity to the question of what will become of Adirondack Club and Resort and Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake. With foreclosure looming over the controversial project in the last year, people have begun floating alternative ideas including public investments in the ski hill.
I asked our reporters to list some of the other topics you might expect to read about on our website and magazine. It’s by no means a full accounting of the news we’ll offer over the next 12 months, but here’s what came to mind:
Dams: They provide carbon-free energy, but they also bottle up rivers and can ruin them for fish. Aging dams are a major problem and dam safety records are often shrouded in mystery because of homeland security concerns. Unsafe dams pose a danger and impose costs on communities and we need to talk more about that, as well as their benefits, which help make power here so inexpensive.
Septic tanks: Leaking septics are a widely known but poorly understood contributor to algal blooms and unsafe water. Around Lake George, state officials have largely thrown up their hands trying to deal with this long-known pollution source, allowing sewage to leak into the lake, which had its first major documented algal bloom in 2020.
Warming: Climate change is shaping and reshaping the world. How are the Adirondacks changing? What will our future winters – and winter economies – look like? How are they changing already?
Invasive species: Will the treatment of hemlock woolly adelgid succeed in rescuing these critical tree stands, and what will happen with the possible continued use of an herbicide to treat Eurasian watermilfoil, first done in Minerva Lake.
Green energy: A number of solar panel projects are making through APA processes. How will they affect our land and our carbon footprint?
Whitney estate: What will happen to the coveted 36,000-acre Long Lake property that many have hoped could end up as public property?