By MIKE LYNCH
A new task force has been formed and a new planning process is being launched to take on issues related to high use in the High Peaks region, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Thursday.
The High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group will include representatives from local and state government, local businesses and environmental groups. The group will be tasked with providing input to the DEC in 2020. The input will be used by the DEC to draft a strategic plan for managing public use in the High Peaks region. Once completed, the draft will be made available for public review and comments.
Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson, who is a member of the group, said the creation of the task force is important because it allows the various groups to be a bigger part of the planning process than they were previously, when decisions were being made mainly by the DEC.
“It really shows that the state is on this,” Wilson said. “They realize that there are issues that need attention and that they are taking it seriously.”
The Adirondack Council will be represented on the task force by its conservation director Raull “Rocci” Aquirre. The advocacy group applauded the creation of the task force.
“We look forward to bringing to the discussion updated data on expanding overuse, and the latest techniques and best practices for user management and public education that can sustain our precious and fragile wilderness areas for generations to come,” said William C. Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, in a written statement provided to the Explorer.
The DEC says it has identified five goals for managing public use in the High Peaks Region: ensuring public safety within communities, along roadways, at trailheads, and in interior areas; protecting natural resources and recreation infrastructure; providing a quality recreation experience; supporting local economic vitality; and making decisions based on science using the best available data.
The strategic planning process for implementing these goals will be guided by Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner Judy Drabicki and led by Division of Lands and Forests Director Rob Davies and DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann.
The task force will include the following people:
- Rocci Aguirre, Director of Conservation, Adirondack Council
- Sandi Allen, Retired DEC Counsel
- Pat Barnes, Region 1 Director, New York State Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Teresa Cheetham-Palen, Owner of Rock and River Guide Co.
- Shaun Gilliland, Chair, Essex County Board of Supervisors
- James McKenna, CEO, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST)
- Pete Nelson, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates
- Mike Pratt, President & CEO, Olympic Regional Development Authority
- Jill Weiss, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene
- Charlie Wise, The Mountaineer outdoor specialty store
- Adirondack Park Agency representative (ad hoc)
- New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation representative (ad hoc)