To the editor:
May I direct your readers' attention to the Plattsburgh Press-Republican and reporter Kim Smith Dedam's Oct. 1 article on the controversy over the proposed use of the soon-to-be-acquired Boreas Ponds area. Robert Gibso's letter in the same paper of Oct. 3 further describes how the land may be put off limits to most New Yorkers by a wilderness classification. Both items hold import for the residents if the Tri-Lakes and Harrietstown in particular.
Thus far the state Department of Environmental Conservation has followed the land-acquisition playbook verbatim: a media blitz of pretty pictures with smiling politicians, tales of opening the region to public use with opportunities for a wide range of outdoor pursuits and, of course, a boon to the local economy. If questions are asked about public access, they are fobbed off with a brusque, "Oh, we need to discuss it." Then, when the initial attention fades, the other shoe drops, as Ms. Smith Dedam so astutely observes. The DEC begins to reveal its long-held plans for restricting access by placing the land into wilderness classification, which is the local equivalent of the Berlin Wall. Hunters are booted, access roads get gated and bouldered, and any structure that might be of use to the casual visitor is torn down. Of course, by this time, the newspapers, especially the large ones downstate, hear nothing of the dissent to the purchase and the new restrictions. All that remains is a fruitless effort by locals to try and talk some sense to Albany bureaucrats, a warm fuzzy in the hearts of a duped public and a depleted treasury.
We have seen it happen far too many times to be complacent. Writing in the Sept. 24 issue of the Adirondack Express, noted author and observer of al things Adirondack Mart Allen sounds the alarm:
"I question many other decisions the present DEC hierarchy have promulgated and whether they serve to BENEFIT the majority of the citizens of New York or special-interest groups. When one looks at the large acreages being added to the fold of the public land, especially in the Adirondacks, it doesn't look like it. Every day in every way, access to those lands is being surreptitiously limited to public use. Like the coils of a boa constrictor, gradually more and more open space is being closed off to the majority of the population. The DEC is one of, if not the most, politically driven state agencies in New York, which only bodes well to the politically connected and not the man on the street."
The Empire State will soon cast its eyes on another large parcel: The Follensby Pond tract in Tupper is on the list of planned acquisitions; asking price is somewhere around $15 million. One rough road across one narrow bridge above the Raquette River is the only way in. Now is the time for DEC to lay out, in detail, the planned use for the parcel before the taxpayer lays out hard-earned shekels for land they may never see or use. As the environmental groups are so fond of stating, "There are questions, so many unanswered questions."