By JAMES M. ODATO
Gary A. Randorf, a pioneering Adirondack land preservationist and the first executive director of the Adirondack Council, died in North Carolina on Tuesday, according to friends and a spokesman for the Council.
His death at age 82 came after a long illness. He had been dealing with Parkinson’s disease.
Tributes and memory-sharing on Wednesday focused on his deliberate, modest and agreeable style while advocating for protections to the forest preserve and wilderness that he photographed for decades.
They came from those impressed by the pictures and text filling the pages of his 2002 book, “The Adirondacks—Wild Island of Hope;” from those who paddled some of the hundreds of miles of wild-and-scenic rivers he toured and mapped while a staffer with the fledgling Adirondack Park Agency in the 1970s; and from those who hiked the trails and peaks of the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park that he lobbied for in Albany.
“He was really a photojournalist in those days, not just for the pretty picture or the powerful picture—there were issues that he captured,” said Peter Borrelli, a Northville resident and friend for years who also served as chairman of the Adirondack Council. He said he looks every day at a photo by Randorf of Split Rock Mountain, near Lake Champlain. It is one of many showing how Randorf could depict the magnificence of the Adirondacks, he said.
The Council said one of his signature battles was to end the use of crop-dusters to spray pesticides to kill black flies in the Adirondacks. The last town stopped aerial spraying of neurotoxins in 1992.
Gary Alvin Randorf grew up in Rochester, was educated at Cornell University and started his career at the APA when hearings were commencing in 1972 on private land use.
In 1973, he shared an office with APA chief scientist Ray Curran, who said Randorf was good at remaining calm during the contentious hearings. “His specialty was as an environmental educator,” Curran said, with soft-spoken and effective explanations.
Founding APA member Peter Paine said Randorf won him over with his diligent field work with former colleague Clarence Petty. The two investigated hundreds of miles of Adirondack rivers from their headwaters to help him develop the state law protecting wild, scenic and recreational rivers.
“He was one of the critical players of that generation of ecologists,” Paine said.
The newly minted Adirondack Council hired Randorf as its first executive director and he served in the role from 1977 to 1988, spokesman John Sheehan said.
He helped shape the Council so it was seen as a firm yet balanced advocate for land preservation, Curran said.
He was the opposite of an abrasive lobbyist as the head of the Council, and approached legislators with patience and a positive attitude, said David Gibson, who while serving as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks learned activist skills under Randorf’s tutelage. When working for funding or legislation such as acid rain controls, Randorf employed a restrained style, he said.
“Whether lobbying in Albany or introducing me to people in the Legislature or in the Adirondacks, he would take the time,” Gibson said. “He had a way of reaching out to people and with the optimistic approach, which made all the difference.”
Randorf returned to the APA for a short stint to help create the Adirondack visitor and interpretive centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb. He later resumed working for the Council as a photographer.
Sheehan said Randorf successfully lobbied for the state’s acid rain control law in 1984 and the federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
In his book, Randorf recalled the anger that some groups directed toward the Council when land-use restrictions were being planned in the 1990—some resorting to terrorist threats. He called for improved communications with local governments so that concerns could be heard and taken into consideration.
He also suggested that people “think like a mountain” and as members of “the biotic community.”