The bureacracy (and humanness) of the Adirondack Park

All too often, journalists describing the Adirondack Park and its clumsy internal negotiations produce stories that are pretty polarized.

There are narratives out there that portray the Park and the various state agencies who manage it as roughly on par with a land-grabbing Evil Empire.

And there are plenty of narratives that pretend the Park is essentially sacred ground, where the mission of the APA, the DEC and green groups is a sort of damn-the-torpedoes crusade.

The truth, of course, lies squarely in between as the latest piece from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise’s Mike Lynch illustrates.

In today’s paper, Lynch tells the complex, muddled story of a pair of privately-owned camps that have been “squatting” on state land for four decades.

According to this account, state efforts to move the camps have continued since 1966, when the Conservation Department first took over management of the property from the Department of Correctional Services.

The effort was delayed by politics, by bureaucratic soul-searching, but also by what appears to be some real humanc concern for the families being displaced.

“I am informed that both Mrs. Thomas Cummings and Mr. and Mrs. Emmett Ryan are in their seventies,” wrote then DEC Region 5 director William Petty in 1976, according to one memo acquired by Lynch

“This could become a very sensitive issue if we force them to remove these camps.  If legally possible, we should consider granting life use for the use of these camps.”

(What Mike doesn’t recount is that this William Petty grew up in the Park and his own family — including brother Clarence — once also squatted on state land, building a cabin on the forest preserve on Upper Saranac Lake.  They, too, were eventually evicted in the early 1900s.)

Read this deeply-researched article and you’ll get a sense for the complexities, gray zones, human sentiment and compromises that come with managing a “peopled” Park.

Do state bureaucrats sometimes do bad things?  No doubt.  And is the Park a world treasure that deserves cautious, dedicated management.  Absolutely.

But I think Lynch’s story tells a story that comes much closer to the truth about how the Adirondacks work day-in and day-out.   Read the full article here.

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1 Comment on “The bureacracy (and humanness) of the Adirondack Park”

  1. Paul says:

    You should also read the comments at the ADE. Classic!

    This case shows how the state tends to let things drag out mainly because they are afraid of the negative PR they will receive by acting.

    The only “gray zone” is that the didn’t want to act because they thought that they could just let it slide and hopefully it would die with the owners. There could have been some compassion involved as Brian suggests, but clearly that is not something that the DEC feels is relevant at this point.

    Personally I think that it would be better for most Adirondackers if the DEC would just follow the law and get the negative PR. That could lead to changing some of the laws that lead to this unfortunate situation.

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