Adirondacks of Hamilton County

Books, opinion and photos by Peter Klein


Adirondacks vs Catskills a tale of two parks

Posted by peteklein on January 20, 2015 at 2:55 PM


There is more to the NYS Forest Preserve than just the Adirondacks and it might be good to take a step back to view the bigger picture to better see what is meant when buzzwords such as the Forest Preserve, Forever Wild and Unit Management Plans are invoked.

New York's Forest Preserve is all the land owned by the state within the Adirondack (2.6 million acres) and Catskill (287,514 acres) parks, managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation. These properties are required to be kept "forever wild" by Article 14 of the state constitution, and thus enjoy the highest degree of protection of wild lands in any state.

The Adirondack Park and the Catskill Park with their expanding Blue Lines were created by state legislators in 1892 and formalized in the State Constitution (Article 14) on Jan. 1, 1895.

The Adirondack Park, composed of portions of St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Lewis, Herkimer, Hamilton, Essex, Warren, Saratoga and Fulton counties now includes about 6,000,000 acres, of which about 2,600,000 acres are state owned lands.

Only Essex and Hamilton counties are fully in the Park.

The Catskill Park, composed of portions of Greene, Delaware Ulster and Sullivan Counties, now includes about 700,000 acres land inside the Blue Line, of which 287,514 acres is state owned Forest Preserve.

None of the counties in the Catskill Park are fully in the Park.

Other than the fact of the Adirondack Park being larger than the Catskill Park, there are a few major differences.

Most significant is there is an APA for the Adirondacks but there is no CPA for the Catskills. This is a huge difference because the APA has much to say about private land in the Adirondack Park. This is not the case in the Catskill Park. In the Catskill Park it is the local towns that regulate private property within the Park and it is the DEC who has the final say about regulations on state lands and only state lands within the Catskill Park.

If you look at the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan (CPSLMP), last updated in 2008, you will see the highlights of the update included many updates being suggested for the Adirondacks, including: the creation of a new Primitive Bicycle Corridor land classification; in Wild Forests, allow for bicycle use on most roads and trails; and include Invasive Species Management.

And let us not forget and be real in that the DEC does regulate and enforce environmental rules on all land, water and air, public and private property within New York State. It's not like the Adirondacks would be trashed if there were no APA and it certainly will not be trashed if the Adirondack Park SLMP is updated much in the same way the Catskill Park SLMP has been updated.

There is another difference between the Adirondacks and the Catskills, one which is seldom recognized by people who do not live and recreate near but not in the Catskill Park.

From Middleburg in Schoharie County to Stamford in Delaware county, and many more towns and villages beyond the Catskill Park Blue Line, many residents consider themselves to be, and proudly so, living in the Catskills. You don’t find this attitude among residents who live outside the Blue Line of the Adirondack Park.

Some of this difference in attitude is likely due to geography. Although the Catskills start rather abruptly a few miles west of the Hudson River, the mountains gradually diminish in height and grandeur until fading into the hills of the Southern Tier. Many who don’t live in the Catskill Park but live close by like to say they live in the Catskills.

Another difference could very well be the result of the Catskill Park not having a Catskill Park Agency, thus creating a greater feeling of pride and responsibility among those who live in and near the boundaries of the Catskill Park.

When the DEC plans to update a UMP or the SLMP in the Catskills, it simply holds public hearings, just as it does in the Adirondacks, but with one big difference. It doesn’t then need to go to a Catskill Park Agency to get its endorsement before sending it the governor for final approval.

This is not to say there aren’t any environmental groups in the Catskills who have no say in what happens in the Catskill Park. Many do but most are more regional and national and they, like the general public get only one pick at the apple. Whereas in the Adirondacks, they get two picks when you add in the public hearings put on by the APA.

There is one environmental group in the Catskills but its focus is on the Catskills and not just the Catskill Park. This groups is the Catskill Center, which according to its website, “is dedicated to conservation in the Catskill Mountains and Catskill Park, and to creating opportunities for communities throughout the Catskill Region. Our unique balance of regional advocacy, environmental education, promoting the region, arts & culture programming, and invasive species work to help to keep our region’s natural resources and communities vibrant.”

Many in the Adirondacks would like to see the APA become more like the Catskill Center. Something to think about in the competition for tourism dollars and efforts to attract people to live and work in the Adirondacks.


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