Last week’s vote by the Lake George Park Commission to institute a mandatory inspection and boat washing regime starting in 2014 is an important, necessary step toward keeping new invasive species out of the lake. But it’s more than that: It’s a sign that the various players in the Adirondacks, so often at odds philosophically and politically, can put aside their differences and come together when the issue is important enough.
And the fight against invasive species is very important. Those non-native organisms, such as zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil, threaten the health of the lake and the activities it supports: boating, fishing, swimming, etc. Recreation and tourism are the lake’s life blood, the stuff on which the local economy — all those marinas, restaurants and motels — depends.
The businesses know it; even those conservative, normally anti-regulation local politicians know it. They also know that the voluntary inspection and boater education programs now being used won’t keep out new invasive species in the long run. That’s why they joined with environmental groups in supporting mandatory inspections.
In this case, the former antagonists have found common ground over water. Land-use issues tend to be tougher, but there’s reason for hope there, too, with another strange-bedfellows group founded in 2007 called the Common Ground Alliance, which had its seventh annual meeting two weeks ago. By getting together and talking, rather than fighting and calling each other names, the participants have found they agree on more than they thought they did, including a vision for the park that starts with recreational tourism.
That’s the right vision. Those lakes and woods are the park’s greatest assets — to be used but also protected.