The environmentally sensitive Adirondacks need protection from overdevelopment, and that’s where most of the money and effort have gone over the years. But the depressed region also needs economic development, and not nearly enough attention has been paid to that. This year a new pot of federal money is available for appropriate, sustainable economic development projects in the Adirondack Park, along with the northern forest areas of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, and New York state needs to take advantage.
The money, $30 million, was put into this year’s budget at the request of the four states’ congressional delegations and with the support of the Obama administration. It is to go to the most distressed areas (seven of the Adirondack Park’s 12 counties) and be used for a broad range of job-creating or -sustaining projects, including telecommunications, alternative energy, health, tourism and transportation.
The grant program will be administered by a newly created Northern Border Regional Commission, which last week announced that it would begin to accept grant applications with the goal of awarding the first $1.3 million by Sept. 30. The quality of these projects will help determine whether Congress appropriates the rest of the $30 million authorized, and perhaps more than that in the future.
Although the states worked together to secure the funding, there’s no reason why New York shouldn’t try to get as much of it as possible.
In this it should be helped by the fact that in the last four years a new group has emerged, the Adirondack Common Ground Alliance, a coalition of environmental, local government, nonprofit and business groups that are speaking with one voice on economic issues facing the park. Even more helpful would be to turn the organization’s 14-point “Blueprint for the Blue Line,” which calls for many of the same kinds of development the grant program does, into official state law, or at least policy.