Two recent actions by the state represent a strong sign of hope in boosting the economic fortunes in the Adirondacks while also helping ensure the protection of the environment.
The first occurred about four months ago, when state lawmakers pledged $200 million over three years to help Adirondack hamlets upgrade their water and sewer systems. The state would pay up to 60 percent of the cost of improvements.
The second development happened in July, when the Adirondack Park Agency announced the expansion of a pilot program designed to provide economic assistance to hamlets throughout the park.
Steve Williams reported on the success of the program in the Fulton County village of Northville, located at the head of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
According to the APA, the program focused on improving boater access from the Great Sacandaga Lake into downtown Northville, creating public access to Northville Lake, establishing sites in the hamlet for light manufacturing, and diversifying housing options for seniors and young professionals.
APA officials said the initiative provides “certainty for prospective developers and a greater willingness to invest in Adirondack communities."As a result of its success, the program will be expanded to serve four Adirondack hamlets per year.
The economic viability of the 135 hamlets in the 6-million-acre park is vital to the entire park's economy.
While protecting the environment has always been and continues to be a top priority of Adirondack officials and park preservation groups — as evidenced by the growing number of conservation easements and other protections designed to discourage development in environmentally sensitive areas — the park also needs infrastructure, economic development incentives and services to support businesses and provide jobs for residents.
Without investment to support local businesses, the park can't adequately service the needs of its 130,000 residents and its more than 1.5 million annual visitors.
The commitment of state assistance for sewer and water projects and the planned investment in the economic development of the hamlets are vital to protecting the park's environment and building its economy.
Together, they represent two very positive signs for the future of the Adirondack Park.