An initiative he organized to preserve historic lands in the upper Hudson Valley will provide a balance to the ongoing efforts to bring new jobs to the region, state Assemblyman Roy J. McDonald, R-Saratoga, said Wednesday.
“You can have quality economic development and still have open space, historic preservation, vista protection,” McDonald said.
McDonald made a luncheon speech to more than 500 people attending the annual county Planning Conference at the Saratoga Hotel in Saratoga Springs, briefly outlining his Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership.
Last fall, McDonald proposed the partnership program, which would coordinate communities along the river north of Albany in preserving open space, keeping agriculture healthy and promoting heritage tourism.
The focus of the partnership is on protecting the rural ambience of the area around Saratoga National Historic Park in Stillwater, where the Revolutionary War Battles of Saratoga were fought. The 1777 battles are considered the turning point of that war.
“The premise in this case is real simple: We want to protect our culture,” said McDonald, a former Wilton town supervisor.
Without action, McDonald argued, there’s a danger the countryside outside the park could become “honky-tonk,” filled with the kind of tourist-trap businesses found just outside the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, site of the turning-point Civil War battle.
Later Wednesday, McDonald was scheduled to meet in Schuylerville with fellow state Assembly members Jack McEneny, D-Albany, and Steven Englebright, D-Setauket, chairman of the Assembly tourism committee. They were to look at possible locations for a partnership office. Siena College is also interested in being involved, McDonald said.
The partnership communities currently are Mechanicville, Halfmoon, Saratoga, Stillwater, Northumberland and Waterford in Saratoga County, and Easton, Fort Edward and Greenwich in Washington County.
McDonald said Rensselaer County communities are also able to join, extending the heritage area up the Hoosick River nearly to the Vermont border, where the Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington was fought.
“We will make this one of the most beautiful, most fun, most protected areas in the state of New York,” McDonald said.
McDonald, who as Wilton supervisor in the 1990s pushed plans for what is now the 2,000-acre Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, said historic and natural attractions can bring tourists to the area, as horse racing at Saratoga Race Course and the cultural life in Saratoga Springs already do.
After he spoke, McDonald received the annual Distinguished Service Award presented at the Planning Conference.
“He offers innovative ideas and a commonsense approach to government,” said current Wilton Supervisor Arthur Johnson, who made the presentation.
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