Marking the Explorer’s first quarter-century

By Tracy Ormsbee

In the summer of 1998, a professor of natural sciences at Paul Smith’s College, Curt Stager, celebrated the slow return of moose to the Adirondacks in a column in a newly launched magazine, Adirondack Explorer. The animals, nearly eliminated by hunters during the 19th century, Stager noted, were up to about 100 in the park.

“With all the hot air blowing over the issue of reintroducing wolves to the Adirondacks, it’s refreshing to watch moose quietly come back on their own,” Stager wrote.

In that same issue 25 years ago, an article argued the pros and cons of jet skis on Adirondack lakes—the noted author and environmentalist Bill McKibben arguing against, and Mark Denny of the International Jet Sports Boating Association writing in favor. Freelance reporter Jim Gould interviewed the eight students from Long Lake Central School’s graduating class of 1990, the smallest recorded at that time.

Looking back now through a quarter century of the Explorer—the thousands of articles, columns and investigations, the photos and maps, and detailed hikes, paddles and skis—a picture of this place emerges. Through the pages of the magazine and our outdoor recreation guides, and, in recent years, in the digital presentation on and, we see not only the lush forests, clear lakes and rushing streams of New York’s tallest mountains and the Eastern United States’ greatest wilderness, but also the life of our communities and the challenges that face those of us who proudly call ourselves Adirondackers. We are reminded of what has improved here, what has stayed remarkably unchanged and what remains for us to do.

The moose kept coming and the jet skis still buzz around. Today, though, the moose population may number as many as 900, and jet skis are sparse, because of a 1999 state law empowering municipalities to regulate their use locally. 

As the Explorer’s reach and impact have grown, there have been changes in the Adirondacks. The forest preserve has grown larger, through state land purchases and easements. New trails have been built for hikers, skiers and bicyclists. An ambitious new natural history museum has opened in Tupper Lake, helping to revitalize that community and others. More people than ever are visiting the Adirondacks, and through a strong diversity initiative, strides are being made to make sure everyone who visits or decides to live here is made welcome. On many fronts, the Adirondack Park is seen as a model for the protection of forests and waters.

Yet many matters confront us. Notably, even as the region’s waters have grown cleaner due to air pollution mitigation nationwide, the effects of climate change have become apparent to everyone—with more severe storms, more invasive species and warmer winters. 

Over these years, the Adirondack Park Agency has become decidedly more permissive, drawing critics who say it seems to have lost sight of its crucial role in enforcing the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan. Concerns over carrying capacity on hiking trails and waters have still never been addressed with real data. Enrollment in schools continues to decline, and the region struggles to attract young families to live and work here—in part because it’s nearly impossible to find housing. Last year, our reporting brought ideas from beyond the Blue Line on how to better manage high use on trails and how to alleviate the extreme lack of housing in recreation economies like ours. Implementing the best of those ideas is an arduous task.

Dick Beamish, our founder and publisher until 2008 and who remains a member of our diverse 19-member board of directors, offered an ambitious outlook to those he recruited to share his vision in the 1990s: He imagined a publication that would cover the “people and places, flora and fauna, woods and waters, and the forces at work that are shaping the park’s future.” He promised to explore all sides and points of view, even if the publication favored a conservation message on its opinion pages. The Explorer would provide, he said, “a public forum for rational discussion and debate.”

All of us affiliated with the Explorer since then—publishers, editors, reporters, board members, supporters and subscribers—have committed to building on that vision. Good journalism breaks down complicated science, land use laws, and difficult economic issues with the goal of giving readers a clear understanding of how they might affect the Adirondack community. It holds the powerful to account. It shows the beauty of every corner of the park. 

For 25 years, the Explorer has kept pressure on the Adirondack Park Agency to do its job. It has written about every addition to the forest preserve and encouraged more land protection. It has fought for reduced road salt use, for a state conservation design bill, for lakes without motors, water access everywhere, boat inspections and more transparency from our public servants.

When journalism is well done, it can inspire change. The past 25 years have been good to the Adirondack Park, and we are proud to think that the Adirondack Explorer may have played a role in that. To our readers, we pledge our continued devotion to helping our communities achieve their potential and to doing what we can to preserve what we all cherish about this unique place, our Adirondacks.

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About Tracy Ormsbee

Tracy Ormsbee is publisher of the Adirondack Explorer. When she’s not working – and it’s not black fly season – you can find her outdoors hiking, running, paddle boarding or reading a book on an Adirondack chair somewhere.

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