Category Archives: Community Development

Project Update – Are We Getting the Desired Future Or?

You know this pattern:  Lots of people spend tons of time and money developing a plan.  It finishes with a fanfare, then as times passed it is spoken about less frequently.  Eventually people forget about the plan.  Then work begins on a new plan, because, well, we don’t have one. So, with this post we are trying to add something different to the ADK Futures Project, a review of how we are doing vs the 2011-12 vision – remember the vision?

In 2011-12, the ADK Futures Project ran a series of scenario planning workshops.  The desired future was called the Sustainable Life, mixed with tourism and supported by the Forest Preserve.  This also turned out to be most attainable among the scenarios, largely because much of it was already underway.  The broad alignment supporting the vision was what surprised people.  Now it is February 2016.  What has happened since July 2012?  How does it compare to the desired vision?

We have been collecting data, news items, press releases, reports and such since July 2013 and now have roughly 1000 items. We associate each item to its related event(s).  Over time one begins to see trends suggesting what is getting done, and what is not. Some events have lots of news, on other events nothing has happened, and some are clearly never going to happen.

The short conclusion is, wow, we sure are making a lot of progress on a broad range of fronts. Historic expansions of the Forest Preserve have been made.  Realignment of the health care system has been done.  Building out broadband and cell service is ongoing, making progress each day.  The renewal of Champlain Valley farming is gaining momentum.  The State and private sector have invested a lot of new money in recreation and tourism facilities.  And on and on.  It is very impressive, especially given the fact that no one is organizing, coordinating, or leading all this work.   It is happening, it seems, with the willing collaboration and distributed effort of many people to get where they collectively want to go.  Maybe this is democracy in action in the most positive sense of the word.   It is actually quite incredible.

There is too much information for a post.  We have written an update that organizes recent developments by theme.  For example, Agriculture, Recreation, Energy, Transportation, Arts and Heritage, Healthcare, and more, are each separate topics, where news related to the events used in the 2011-12 workshops has been aggregated and written as a short narrative.

The update is based on data collected, organized and posted here.  You can check on the data, follow the links and find out more about the progress we have made. We try to keep ‘evidence’ to things that actually happen; not ongoing debates but how the debates conclude.  We try to keep it complete.  A grant is made.  A project is started, finished or abandoned.  The APA makes a decision.  Voters pass something.  You get the idea.  Even with this approach, we already have about 1000 items of evidence.   Let us know via email of missing data, including a link to the evidence we should cite.  Thanks!

Click here for the PDF file of the update document.

 

 

2015 REDC Awards Summary

The Adirondack Park is split between three REDCs.  The 2015 grants from all three that have an impact on the Park are quickly summarized in this post.

The largest grant was $2 million to Adirondack Health to partially fund it’s new Medical Fitness Center in Lake Placid.

Three hamlets get ‘downtown’ revitalization funds:  Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga and Indian Lake.

There are quite a lot of tourism related grants.  2 hotel projects, one in Schroon Lake and one in Speculator on Lake Pleasant.  Funds for work at Great Camp Sagamore, the ADK Museum and The Wild Center. A marketing push for skiers.  Snowmobile trail groomers(2).  More work on two byway projects:  the First Wilderness Heritage Corridor and the Lakes-to-Locks Passage.

2 theaters will see feasibility studies for replacements:  Pendragon in Saranac Lake and  Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake.  4 smaller arts organizations received funds to expand programming: Adirondack Center for Writing, Bluseed Studio, both in Saranac Lake and Lake George Music Festival and the Akwesasne Cultural Center.

Funding went to a brewery expansion in Keeseville, a new sawmill in Messena, and organizing financing for energy conservation and renewable energy projects.  A new venture will build robotic year-round greenhouses in the agriculture areas.

More mundane, sewer work and engineering continue around Lake Champlain in Crown Point, Port Henry, Willlsboro, Moriah. A sewer extension in Tupper Lake was funded.  A septic inspection program for Lake George was funded.  Clifton-Fine has a drinking water project in Newton Falls.

There are significant storm water projects in Lake Placid (around Mirror Lake), in Lake George, Bolton and Chestertown.  Also a Queensbury Lake George watershed plan was funded. Four new larger culverts for fish passage and storm water in Jay, Keene, Chestertown and Hague.

Renovation of water front parks in Tupper Lake, Bolton and Clifton-Fine were funded.

These are the December 2105 awards.  Most projects get built but not all of them.  There are other major projects funded via other means.  All the main NYS Route 73 bridges, for example, will be replaced next year with Federal funds.

It was not one of the more successful REDC rounds for the region, but, still, I would summarize it by noting that  water quality, tourism, arts/heritage, plus a bit of local food and local energy financing are all very much in line with the sustainable life and sustainable tourism vision derived from the ADK Futures work. Things are really coming along.

 

743 Items of Evidence, and Counting

If you have not seen it, please note we have been monitoring what our region is actually doing vs the ADK Futures scenarios.  You can see what progress is being made here where more than 734 items of evidence show substantial progress toward realizing the vision laid out for our sustainable future.  More evidence is added all the time.

Recall that we were surprised by the strength and depth of the aligned intentions of most people in the region?  Well, if you were surprised by that, the progress since then is actually astonishing, and I encourage you to take a look at the breadth and depth of actions already taken.  Encouragingly, no single person is organizing and driving all this activity.  The progress is made by by hundreds of people in a distributed fashion.  It is clear that the region is making real progress toward what it identified as its desirable and attainable goals.

It is a good news reading, you’ll enjoy it. Look here and click on the header called ‘category’. Then you can look through each category and see what’s been going on.

Why is minimizing our carbon footprint so difficult?

Near the end of the December 2014 workshop on Adirondack region responses to climate change, someone asked a really good question.  Why was the “(C)Sustainable Life” scenario in the ADK Futures workshops of 2011 and 2012 considered most desirable AND most attainable while the “(A)Minimize our Carbon Footprint” scenario in this new workshop was considered most desirable but LEAST attainable?

A big difference between the two scenarios was the level of government, especially Federal government, intervention required.  The new scenario explicitly requires that governments put a price on carbon to create the necessary economic incentives to spur rapid adoption of clean energy.  Participants had already expressed their lack of faith in the top-down government led approach to capping emissions and thus it was consistent to believe that this regional scenario would be unattainable – Federal government is not functioning well today and no improvement is expected.

Another factor in our view is that the new scenario explicitly called for solving the harder parts of actually getting emissions in the region down by 80% of 2005 levels by 2040.  The older “Sustainable Life” scenario was much vaguer about doing good things to reduce our carbon footprint.  In the new scenario we focus on how to move away significantly from dependence on fossil fuels for transportation using a combination of electric and hydrogen vehicles coupled with efforts to reduce the total number of miles driven, a much more demanding scenario.

The new scenario posits that, over the next 25 years, regulations are enacted that put a price on GHG emissions all over the world.  The logic goes that the perception of the seriousness of threat of destructive climate change later in the century will increase during this period as the science will improve and impacts on the climate system begin to manifest themselves.  Large-scale change in the energy system requires engaging market forces by making energy sources that emits GHGs expensive relative to those that don’t.  As carbon prices increase, the rural northern lifestyle would be penalized because it consumes more transportation and heating energy than urban living.  Seeing this coming, the region can work proactively to minimize our fossil fuel use so are not impacted much as GHG prices increase.

Clearly the Adirondack region would not be the only part of the country hurt by placing a price on GHG emissions.  States that are big suppliers of fossil fuels (e.g., Wyoming, West Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, etc.) would see their economies hurt as their markets shrink.  It seems clear that to get a carbon tax adopted, those hurt by it will have to be compensated in some way.  This is how our political system works.  One idea, for example, is to grant most of these funds collected back to individuals and small businesses as a ‘carbon dividend’.  Thus, rural life might not be as hurt as thought at first glance, and adoption of such a tax might not be impossible after all.  It depends how the revenues are used.  Still, global adoption of carbon taxes in some form is hard to imagine as easily attainable.

Other aspects of this new scenario minimizing our carbon footprint that might be difficult to imagine are an almost complete abandonment of heating oil in favor of biomass, solar thermal, geothermal or electric heat.  Biomass for thermal is a competitive option vs heating oil in our region. In its Renewable Heat initiative, NY State is targeting replacement of old wood stoves largely for health reasons.  But soot and other black carbon particles are also a driver of climate change as they settle on arctic snow fields and cause them to absorb more solar energy.  The State will pay you to remove and dispose of your old wood furnace, AND give you a grant to buy a new state-of-the-art unit.

Lastly, the new low carbon scenario called for more clustering of our residents in fewer towns where people walked and biked more.  By living closer together, and closer to work, we drive less.  Clustered homes and businesses could share a district heating system.  Also, as storms worsen, we can better fortify and upgrade key community infrastructure (communications, water, power, fire, EMT, etc.) in the larger towns, not in every town.  Communities where people know each other and see each other daily are stronger, more cohesive than communities where most people live outside of town, isolated from each other.  Once again this raises the specter of smaller remote, more marginal, Adirondack towns fading away, a possibility that was raised before in the ADK Futures workshops and something that is widely rejected.

This new low carbon scenario is primarily about efforts to mitigate the impact of our emissions.  One certain contribution we make is keeping our forests healthy and functioning as a major carbon storage system.  Assuming a push to reduce emissions gets into gear nationally, we can benefit from cost reductions in new technologies as they are adopted widely, just like everyone else, e.g. electric and hydrogen vehicles.  But developing and testing new technologies will happen elsewhere.

To expect the Adirondack region will be a leader in mitigation is almost certainly a stretch, except for maintaining our forest carbon storage.  But we can do our part. A common argument against aggressively mitigating our region’s GHG emissions is that we have a negligible impact on the global situation.  But most regions could say the same – no place matters much, but everywhere matters – and therein lies the conundrum.  Creating a global economy that doesn’t depend on wrecking the atmosphere and the oceans requires everyone, everywhere, to make changes, including us.   To have these changes in energy use adopted widely in the region, we will need to get more people to see the consequences of not acting.  At the State level, there is recognition of the need to act.  At the county and local level less so, but talk about storms and you find support.  Getting local leaders, citizens and youth to the point of being aware of the problem, and participating in sensible changes, remains our biggest opportunity.

WWW.AdirondackStrategies.com

I like the report because it starts right out with measures of success.  It also explains this is rooted in some 100 plans and reports already done and instead points action steps.  The meeting last Monday was organized into working group to begin work on moving ahead.  Public comment is also requested.

If this works, begins the report, we should expect the following benefits:

  • wage and payroll growth
  • increased business revenue
  • improved health and wellness statistics
  • alternative energy consumption increase
  • educational attainment increase
  • real estate values for year round property increase
  • level of private capital investment in leverage increase
  • availability of cultural and recreational assets grows
  • increasing school enrollment

Wow. Now I’m interested!  How to we get to this place?

It lays out these 7 business opportunities.  They can be done park-wide or at least in more than one location.

  • Sustainable forest and natural products
  • Sustainable construction and building products
  • Recreational equipment manufacturing and retail
  • Tourism
  • Ecosystem services and nature conservation
  • Value added agriculture and food processing
  • Non profit employment

Next it lays out four goals, each with metrics, strategies and actions. Here they are:

Goal One:  Inspire a culture of entrepreneurship with a globally competitive workforce and diverse business base

Six specific strategies and their actions are described. They include a small and micro business program, a lend local idea, teaching programs, higher ed collaborations, and a leadership program.

Goal Two: Promote a sustainable and connected rural life with quality infrastructure and community amenities.

Ten strategies are described, each with a couple of actions,  They begin with be happier, and cover broadband, hamlet restoration, affordable housing, health care, road/pedestrian/bike  infrastructure, improve access to water, assistance for towns with larger projects, improving financing for grant funded projects, non profits, first responders and reuse of vacant sites.

Goal Three:  Reinvent traditional industry across the working landscapes in forest products, naturals resources and agriculture

Fives strategies and their actions are described. They cover natural resources protection including invasives, promoting local building materials, alternative energy, wood products, and local farming, local food.

Goal Four: Advance the park as a world class destination

It describes 10 strategies and several actions for each one.  They cover the trail towns initiative, lodging renovations, tourism ambassadors, more types of lodging moving people across the park, integrated web presence, world class sports, wellness/health tourism, branding, upgrades of non-lodging tourism facilities.

This is the link to the whole report.

This is the link to the web site, Advantage Adirondacks, which has a lot more material and supporting documents.

The project was organized and run by the Adirondack Partnership and AATV.  Funding came from the NYS Dept of State, DEC and the ADK Futures Project  of the Common Ground Alliance was used as the local match to get the State funding.

The meeting on Monday was associated with AATV and had lots of local government people there.  This effort looks like it has traction.

CGA Amendment Working Group Offers Whitepaper

At the CGA Forum in July 2012, we presented the results of the ADK Futures work, and a number of working groups dove into various topics during the afternoon.  BTW, this year’s CGA Forum will use a workgroup format again.

One of those July 2012 groups discussed amendments to help towns get broadband, water, rebuild bridges more wisely, etc.  Neil Woodward and Kayrn Richards left with the task of writing up the notes and getting others involved.  By October 2012 a working group had organized itself and I wrote about it here.

Now it is June of 2014, and we are pleased to say good work has been done on the data gathering and legal thinking.  It has come far enough to be worth sharing for considered discussion.  There is no rush.  It’s taken 22 months to get this far, and it improved over time.  This is a complicated topic.  So, we offer a deeply considered proposal that we hope will find wide support and success over time.  We want your pubic voice in support, and we also want to hear concerns.  Take the time to download the map data (warning, large files involved) and read the other two appendices. This is not intended as a yes-or-no offer, it is an invitation for ideas to resolve the issues we find present.

Please pass along this information as you wish.  We welcome comments here (you need to create an account with your real name and log in) and anywhere else discussions might take place.  We expect to write followups here as the summer unfolds so you might want to check back from time to time.

Click here to download the CGA Amendment Working Group White Paper.

Two More Sets of Ranking Data

Even though the main thrust of the ADK Futures project has moved on to implementation and tracking progress toward the vision, we continue to give talks where we introduce new groups to the original six scenarios and the issues that they frame for the Park.  There are plenty of people that have not heard them yet and there is always a good discussion.

Recently we gave a talk at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.  About 40 attended and we had an excellent discussion about the scenarios.  In the middle of our talk, after we presented the endstates, we asked them to do the ranking exercise for desirability and attainability.  The results from 31 people turned out to line up very well with the overall results from the workshop series as you can see in the table below.  The ranking on desirability is almost identical to the workshop series.  The attainablity rankings were slightly different, putting the Usable Park (B) first instead of Sustainable Life (C).  Also, surprisingly, the Adirondack County (D) endstate was seen as more attainable than in the averages but thinking of the Park as a region is much more widely talked about now than it was.

ADK museum ranking result2

In addition, we published a condensed version of the six endstates in Adirondack Life this spring with a link to the magazine’s website where readers could do the ranking exercise. Although hundreds of people started the exercise, only 91 completed it.  These rankings are shown in the table below.  C and B are still the top in desirability.  But the Wild Park (A) ranks third instead of fourth with this group.  Also Adirondack State Forest (F) got a slightly higher score and is fifth instead of sixth.  The attainability ratings are very different with Sustainable Life (C) is only third.  Wild Park (A) again ranks higher than in the workshop series.

These results are similar to those of two half-day workshops we did during 2012.  One was with a group of seasonal residents.  The other was a group of Paul Smith students in a land use planning class.  The Wild Park scenario was an attempt to capture the point of view of a person who doesn’t live in the Park and is not involved in the issues of economy and community building in the region.

adk life ranking results

These two data sets overall continue to support the consensus vision that is based on the Sustainable Life (C), with a sustainable version of the Usable Park (B), and continued protection of the Forest Preserve as a Wild Park (A).