A big conference on the future of the Adirondacks took place earlier this week here in Long Lake. While it was only for the most involved activists and civic leaders, not casual summer visitors like me, I was interested in the news reports that indicated some real progress made to envision a sustainable future for this region. More than 200 people representing the spectrum of views — from the “forever wild” advocates to those who might prefer to pave over paradise, and all in-between — gathered to explore options for the future of a region where the commitment to sustaining the environment in the “forever wild” mode rubs hard against the obvious economic depression of so many towns.
By all accounts, the optimism following this conference flowed as abundantly as the water over this beaver dam on Big Brook on Long Lake. As a long-time visitor to the Adirondacks and avid fan of the wilderness here, I am often chagrined by the obvious march of progress in some areas along waterfronts where increasingly large homes and docks with massive powerboats despoil places that once might have had small cabins and canoes.
On the other hand, reconciling divergent views is essential to ensure a good future for the people who live here. I have seen enough of the struggle of the real residents — the hundreds who remain when the tens of thousands leave after the summer — to know that balance must be found between managing the forest preserve and making towns and villages attractive and economically healthy. Ironically, one of the topics of the conference was the opportunity that technology affords to build businesses —ironic, I say, because this is a place where a cell phone is often useless. If technology is going to help the Adirondacks, the first thing that has to happen is getting some bandwith up here…. which, of course, will make it less “wild.” (Already, I have found that my Blackberry works just fine in the middle of the lake, a mixed blessing!)
Whatever political, social, economic and environmental future the leadership is able to map out, what remains clear to me is that the abundant wildlife in the wilderness areas must continue to have the space and protection necessary to thrive. Seeing bald eagles on Long Lake is a good reminder of how strong environmental protection has restored a species that almost faced extinction.