Macro Intervention: The Adirondack Park

At (a)biotic we sometimes joke that good things often happen in spite of government regulation and planning, not because of them. One could argue that the birth of jazz and blues came about in-spite of segregation and that as an art these things triumphed amidst a failed system. There are examples, however, of what we call Macro Interventions that present some pretty wonderful events and places. Just like our celebration of Micro Interventions we would like to explore and discuss the good and the bad behind our larger scale land use planning efforts.

One such place that we thoroughly enjoy is the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Though considered young by mountain standards, these mountains were formed about 5 million years ago and are considered part of the Canadian Crust geological formation. The granite, marble, and quartz rocks (among others) were formed billions of years ago only to be uplifted, scoured, smoothed and eroded by rain, wind, heat and glacial activity. For this reason, they bare the somewhat comical moniker: “new mountains from old rocks.” 1 The range itself is quite unique in that it is not an “elongated range like the Rockies or Appalachians.” 1 The Adirondacks actually form a circle called the “Adirondack Dome.” 1

As part of a multi-functional attempt to preserve this land for timber, water management, and recreation (mostly for the ultra-wealthy of the time), the New York State Forest Preserve was formed. In 1885, a declaration was made that all “State-owned lands in eight Adirondack and three Catskill counties should be ‘forever kept as wild forest lands’ and could not be leased or further sold.” 1 Groundbreaking legislation was formed in 1892 when the Adirondack Park was formed to encompass the Forest Preserve as well as private lands in the central region. The “Adirondack Park” has hence been declared the “primary benchmark in the genesis of the greenbelt and greenway concepts.” It is a truly unique attempt to manage land and development and “incorporate public and private land and economic and conservation interests in the park.” 2

The park today is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park combined1. The park covers nearly 6 million acres and New York State owns less than half. The rest is in private hands in the form of settlements, timber industry, businesses, homes, and camps. The over 130,000 inhabitants and over 105 towns and villages often long for more economic activity and it is a constant struggle against the forces of development to keep the land as preserved as possible.

1 http://www.apa.state.ny.us/About_Park/geology.htm (body text and map at right)
2 Current State of Greenway Planning, Landscape and Urban Planning, 2004

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