A public meeting will be held in Old Forge at VIEW on Thursday, November 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. to gather input on a regional strategy for diversifying and enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities and improving community connectivity in the “Great South Woods”—a vast area encompassing more than two million acres in the southern Adirondack Park.
The project is being undertaken by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Also involved are the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and various local governments.
Additional meetings will be held in North Creek on November 19 and Speculator on November 23rd.
This round of public meetings is a key step in the community-based planning process initiated in September 2014, according to Dr. Colin Beier, project leader for ESF.
Previously local knowledge and recreation ideas was culled from public workshops held in six Adirondack communities.
In total, these workshops engaged more than 200 citizens from across New York state.
Fifty-eight percent were from communities within the Great South Woods planning area.
Contributors shared their knowledge of existing and potential trails, recreation assets, and points of interest.
Overall, this effort resulted in more than 300 existing (but previously unmapped) features being added to the Forest Preserve assets inventory used by DEC planners.
Also compiled were over 150 new ideas for trails of many types, in addition to campsites, boat carries, privies and other recreation assets.
The DEC has sponsored the Great South Woods (GSW) initiative with the goal of creating a destination-based system of trails and recreation assets.
It is intended that they stimulate economic activity, while protecting the region’s unparalleled natural resources and wild character.
The focus is on the vast Great South Woods region, where nearly two of every three acres is state land.
This region features diverse natural settings that remain untapped resources for local communities and tourism-oriented businesses.
“This initiative furthers Governor Andrew Cuomo’s vision of drawing more visitors to upstate New York to enjoy the tremendous recreation opportunities this state offers,” DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said.
“The beauty of the Adiron-dack Park is unsurpassed, and exploring the recreational potential of the Great South Woods is exciting,” he said.
This new approach to regional recreational planning—one intended to better connect communities in the park to one another and to the Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands in and around them—is already demonstrating the potential for a growth in tourism infrastructure in the communities of the park, according to Seggos.
Dr. Colin Beier of ESF, said the project has seen much progress in the past year.
“We will continue to work closely with communities, planners and stakeholders to develop a strategy for high-quality, destination-based recreation across the region.
We’ve put together a preliminary framework and initial set of project ideas that we are excited to share with the people who have been instrumental in their creation,” he said.
ESF and its partners have been using the data generated to develop preliminary concepts for a network of trails that build on existing infrastructure to provide better access and connectivity across the entire Great South Woods region.
This network serves as a framework to innovate and develop a variety of recreation projects that draw visitors to the region as a world-class destination for recreation, as well as serve the needs and interests of local communities.
In addition to generating new recreation maps and data, the Great South Woods planning process has relied on the best scientific data available on natural resources, ecosystem conditions and biodiversity of the Adirondack landscape.
The desire is to ensure that the ecological integrity of this area is protected.
Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, helped build the Great South Woods partnership.
The initiative has helped integrate community planning with recreation planning for the vast lands that surround Adirondack communities, he said.
“This dialogue will strengthen state and local partnerships to construct and maintain sustainable recreation infrastructure and draw visitors to the park.
This is our chance to support sustainable tourism economy in the park,” Farber said.
APA Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich said her agency is glad to be on board.
“The agency is excited to be part of this initiative to advance Governor Cuomo’s agenda to link New York State’s Adirondack Forest Preserve in a sustainable way to Adirondack communities,” she said.
“It is exciting to be learning about how we can improve recreation opportunities which recognize the importance of the long-term preservation of the park’s outstanding natural resources.
The agency applauds the process to engage the public in developing this strategy.”
Following these public sessions, the preliminary Great South Woods strategy document and an interactive web-based map will be published online to solicit further public engagement and feedback.
Those wanting more information about the GSW project and the participatory process, can visit the ESF website at www.esf.edu/aec/greatsouthwoods.