To the editor:
As reported, Jessica Collier covered an upbeat Common Ground Alliance conference in Long Lake this week. The Adirondack Futures project and scenario planning results are encouraging. The overall thrust - that main streets and towns should be more welcoming of visitors, that the Park deserves smarter development, that the Park's agricultural businesses need encouragement, that the Adirondacks should develop an "energy smart" future, that water quality is critical to the Park, and much more - does have broad consensus within this annual gathering and well beyond it.
What I found not to be true is a paraphrased comment attributed to one of the CGA organizers: "He noted that while there were people from almost every sector of Adirondack life represented, he didn't hear a bit of dissonance or discord at Wednesday's session."
Not so, nor should there be any surprise about healthy disagreement at these meetings. For example, one CGA participant made the excellent point that there seemed to be a big gap in the listed actions - practical steps to support the arts and cultural life of towns within the Blue Line. The arts and performances play a big role in attracting visitation, residents and spending in the region, yet tend not to receive sufficient attention at Common Ground meetings. Secondly, a number of participants were skeptical that a constitutional amendment creating a land bank "to facilitate small projects" constituted good policy. The Forest Preserve is often incorrectly blamed for blocking utilities or infrastructure; when alternative solutions to problems are examined properly, there often is no need to amend the "forever wild" clause. Furthermore, a land bank exception for vaguely defined "community projects" may lack transparency and is ripe for abuse. Only the voters should decide if a project has sufficient public benefit to merit an exception to our Constitution's Article 14, whereby "the lands of the state shall be forever kept as wild forest lands."
P.S.: The writer is a partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.