It’s hard times just about everywhere these days, but it’s always hard times in the Adirondacks. The region’s isolation from the rest of the state, poor communications and small but spread-out population have all contributed to its economic stagnation.
Whether or not an overemphasis on land preservation has also contributed, as many locals believe, the Adirondack Park needs an economic development blueprint just as badly as it needs an environmental one. And that is the goal of the Adirondack Common Ground Alliance, which will hold its fourth annual summer conference tomorrow in Long Lake.
The alliance is an encouraging attempt to speak with one voice by environmental, local government, non-profit, business and other groups that have at times been a cacophony.
The effort was precipitated by two major realizations. The first was that state and local governments, which together employ 30 percent of all Adirondackers, were facing enormous fiscal pressure and would probably soon be shedding jobs. The other was that upstate would be losing power in Albany — which has been borne out by the departure of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and the fact that local representatives like Sen. Betty Little are now in the minority.
One notable success of the alliance was preserving state tax payments on state land inside the park, payments that local governments heavily rely on and Gov. Paterson had proposed capping. But its 14-point “Blueprint for the Blue Line,” which was adopted in 2008 and calls for such things as Main Street revitalization, regional marketing, entrepreneurial development and high-speed communications, has yet to become legislation or state policy.
Environmentalists have always said that preserving the park is critical to drawing tourists and outdoor enthusiasts who keep the economy going. But that’s not enough. They’ve also got to work to create sustainable, private-sector jobs in a variety of fields. By joining forces with those they have often fought with in the past, they show they are serious — and that this effort deserves the support of those in Albany, including the likely next governor, Andrew Cuomo.