At a meeting yesterday in Long Lake, two consultants — David Mason and Jim Herman from the town of Keene – presented a sort of grand vision for the future of the Adirondack Park.
They say the concept emerged not from their own imaginations but from a year-long series of workshops and seminars.
This, they say, was the consensus view of where community life inside the blue line should go over the next quarter century.
They call this model “the Sustainable Life” and in interviews yesterday in Long Lake, at the Common Ground Alliance Meeting, I found remarkably broad support across the political spectrum.
Tomorrow, we’ll explore the question of how realistic or achievable this vision might be.
But today, I’m interested for In Boxers’ views of the concept itself. Is this the right concept? Is this the kind of Adirondacks you’d like to live in?
Read it through — really, give it a read — and then post your comments below:
The Sustainable Life
What made this Park different from the beginning is the life of the communities inside it. It is not a ring-fenced Park with no one home. Our cultural human values are just as important as our natural values. A healthy diverse economy supports a healthy environment. A sense of community is important here, living close to the land respectfully, not separately; living better without big growth. The old divisions between natives and newcomers faded as the values they shared became more apparent.
The diversity of employment and the shortening of supply chains have made the Park more sustainable and resilient. Local food and local renewable energy create a more closed-loop economy, keeping money in the Park. Eco-friendly recreation and agro-tourism bring in people and income. The other new sector is telework – people working here, often at home in creative and professional jobs, but the employer is somewhere else – they export online work, thereby bringing money into the Park. Overall these strategies reduce our population’s carbon footprint significantly. The Park is a model of sustainable community and draws in green businesses and a new generation of young people who find the vision attractive.
Widespread broadband, cell phone and global delivery services make it easy to live here and stay connected. In the modern mobile society, people move regularly. The Park’s brain gain more than compensates for the departures, however. People who already know the Park move here, as friends join friends. Fine small, networked schools are a feature, not a problem. Hamlet life has more walking and biking, more local stores, and, in general, healthier people. Inter-village bus transport is heavily used. A greatly enriched arts scene thrives. Construction focuses on reuse of existing structures and energy efficiency retrofits.
Most of the money spent on fossil fuel-based heat used to leave the Park. With widespread installation of biomass heating systems in homes, institutions and municipal buildings and the sourcing of fuel from local forests, that money now stays here. Agricultural and private forestlands hold plenty of fuel stock resources that are sustainably harvested. The forests also yield enough saw logs that new small saw mills have popped up. Community solar farms, retrofitted old hydro dams, home-scale wind, geo and solar thermal, and private solar all round out the renewable energy picture. An upgraded smart grid supports distributed power production and local use. It takes a lot of new production to make up for the old fossil fuel infrastructure, but people have become much more aware of the real cost of their energy use in the process and use less.
The local food industry in the Champlain and St Lawrence Valleys adds a lot to existing commercial farms. Regional cooperatives allow scaling up and bring prices to an affordable level, often in year-round CSA arrangements. Extended season farming fits well with the renewable energy efforts. Products of these farms now reach northeast cites. Most schools have gardens, teaching the next generation about healthy eating.
The State helped with more flexible regulation and investment in key infrastructure. It avoided crashing small town economies by gradually reducing employment and at times shifting government jobs from prisons to information processing centers. Land use regulations have been updated to encourage clustering in expanded hamlets. DOT is more environmentally conscious, finding substitutes for road salt and changing culverts to improve wildlife migration. Climate change has reset priorities for environmental non-profits. It is stressing the forest and more active management is helping it to adapt. Invasives require clearing of dead trees even in the Forest Preserve. The forest is changing gradually but we have kept it healthy.