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10 year Update

In May 2022, we produced a presentation describing what has happened over the last 10 years compared to what people said they wanted 10 years ago.

It is a good story. Most thing people wanted are indeed developing just as they hoped. There are surprises, of course. The pandemic for one thing.

Here is a link to the slides.

For some context, here is a link to the vision statement created in 2012

Here is a video of the CGA Webinar presentation.

Seven Year Update

On March 20, 2019 this seven year update was offered as a webinar to the Common Ground Alliance email list.  The idea was to prepare CGA Forum participants for the selection of topics to have working groups at the 2019 Forum in Lake Placid.

Here is a link to the March 2019 update 2-0

In general the progress is impressive and demonstrates the value of our network of leaders in the region – it is robust, tries to be inclusive, and it knows that alignment behind shared goals is what brings progress to our region.

Tracking of Real News Versus the Scenarios

We continue to track actual news and compare it to the events and scenarios developed in these workshops.

The idea is to (1)have a kind of early warning system to alert people to developing problems that can throw us off track and (2)have a way to see if we are getting the future we said we wanted in 2011-2012.  This work to followup on a plan is seldom done and can be very effective.

To handle the database for tracking, we developed a different website.  It is at this address:

We will post summary presentations here from time to time.  The next talk on this topic is in late October 2018 and the presentation will be posted here.

The result from 6 years of tracking show the region to be largely on moving toward Scenario C, The Sustainable Future and Scenario B, Sustainable Recreation.  There are a few items, like wood biomass heating, that haven’t done well, but it is remarkably on track.  I believe this is because these scenarios reflected what people were/are actually doing, not some grand alternative vision.  They explained where people were already heading and gave it all some context and framing.  NYS has been helpful in all sorts of ways because they see it as common ground, derived from lots of people.  The classic conflicts among the advocacy groups certainly still exist but they don’t dominate the region’s conversations like they used to.

Next Diversity Symposium is Saturday August 13 at ESF Newcomb

The third symposium on diversity will be held from 9-4 on August 13.  You must register to attend using this link.

From the press release…

“The opening speech, remarks on the intersection of diversity, economics and social justice, will be given by Professor Wallace Ford.  Professor Ford is Chair of the Public Administration Department at Medgar Evers College”

“The keynote speech will be given by Aaron Mair, President of the National Sierra Club.  Mr. Mair is the first African American to lead the United States’ largest environmental organization.”

This is a huge issue for the Adirondack Park.  Our State becomes more diverse on a daily basis. Somehow we need to foster a shift in the demographics of our Park residents and visitors to better reflect the whole of New York State.  Not doing so will be a long term risk for the Park. This annual symposium is a place to start the many conversations to come.

CGA 2016 Forum in Old Forge, the 10th Anniversary!

The 2016 CGA Forum was held July 19 in Old Forge.  It was, remarkably, the 10th annual meeting.  It attracted about 200 people again, with much stronger local government representation than in recent years.

I presented slides that reviewed actual events of the last four years compared to the plans developed during the 2011-12 ADK Futures Project.  I’ve been matching up the plan vs the real world since 2012 in this online database.  This past February I wrote a paper that provides links to all the source information.  The resulting profile of our progress is rooted in this data, not just my opinion.

The result is surprising forward movement on many fronts, far better progress than most people know. Wow, we don’t need another plan, we need continuing work in the directions we are already headed.  And we need to avoid getting swept up into negative emotional stuff arising from continuing lawsuits and controversy related to APA decisions.  One person’s proper APA ruling is another person’s disaster – this just seems to be the fate of regulatory agencies – but these battles of words and lawyers are no longer the central force defining the future of our park.  The actual future is in the active forward moving hands of thousands people doing their everyday work to improve the place, not with our regional advocacy groups, and it is working.

One major step ahead (thanks to Betty Little, Dan Stec, DEC, Ross Whaley and others too) is the first passage of the utility amendment, from work that originated in the 2102 CGA Forum in a work group run by Neil Woodworth and Karyn Richards.  Here is the version of the utility amendment that achieved first passage.

S8027 is the related implementation language, providing definitions of the terms and other details.  This did not pass the Assembly and is up next year along with second passage.

The amendment does some important things, noted in the points that follow:

  • Allows pipes and cables to be buried under roads that pass through Forest Preserve, which happened all the time until 1996 when the practice was halted
  • It legalizes power and communications lines that exist along roads passing through Forest Preserve.  New lines can be co-located or, if nothing exists, they can be buried. It allows power poles to be moved when needed for road projects – currently no poles are allowed to be moved, ever.
  • It allows bike paths associated with roads where they pass through Forest Preserve
  • It sets up a 250 acre land bank for town about county roads like the one set up in 1956 for State roads.
  • The land bank can also be used for water wells.

It might not be perfect, but it is a major step forward.  Our thanks to the many people who have made this possible so far.  We encourage everyone to support this as it proceeds through second passage on on to the ballot in November for NYS voters to approve.

10th CGA Forum Tuesday July 19

This year’s Common Ground Alliance Forum is a week from today at View in Old Forge.  Once again the day is focused on smaller group discussions of key issues facing the region.  You can find out more and register at:

Jim will be the emcee for the day and will lead a work group discussion on adapting to climate change.  Dave will give a talk on how the ADKfutures framework allows us to track what’s been happening in the past 4 years on progress toward desired futures.  It’s a pretty optimistic picture.

Please come and participate in the day.

Community Solar Farms Now Legal in NYS

There was a big event last July that passed by without notice.  The NY State Public Service Commission issued a state-wide order allowing community net metering for local power. People will be able to have solar panels at a shared location instead of in their yard or on their roof.  The new rules apply to other renewables like wind and small hydo sites.  People in Wadhams and St Regis Falls, for example, will be able to buy their power from the small hydro sites in their hamlets. Old dams will become more interesting candidates for restarting small power production.

The big news is it means people living in homes in the woods, on small lots, or living in apartments will be able to participate in solar power deployment.

A summary of the ruling can be found here.

Full text of the ruling can be found here.

Here is my quick summary

Any type of group can be a Project Sponsor except the incumbent power company.  It can be a business, a church, a town or non-profit.  The Project Sponsor has to build, interconnect and operate the array.  It also has to manage information and accounting for credits.  Members of the project (a minimum of ten) buy, annually, credits in 1kw units.  The credits are applied to their home power bill, valued at the current retail power rate.  You can only buy credits up to your total power consumption.  You can transfer your membership to others.  The maximum size operation is 2MW.  I find answers to the question of “How many homes could 2MW serve?” range from 330 to 1000.  In any case there are only about 1000 homes in Keene, where a group is contemplating a project.  Lots of Adirondack towns have fewer than 1000 homes.

I am not up on the current rules for municipal solar or schools, but there have been changes for them as well. Perhaps municipal needs and school needs can be handled on these sites as well, at least in small towns.  Large customers can’t use more than 40% of the array.  It is mostly intended for homes.

In the Adirondack Park, prime sites for solar will be old, now capped, town landfills.  Each town owns one. They must be kept as open land and have no other use.  It is common for solar arrays to be built on old landfills, much like they are built on rooftops.  Some of these locations are now transfer stations, so that have power lines in place and are easily reached by existing roads. The landfill ‘caps’ have membranes that need to be replaced every couple of decades, like a roof, and the Project Sponsor could be required to fund and install new cap membranes when needed.   In Keene, the old landfill is very close to the NYSEG substation serving the whole town. It is also home to town highway crew operations.

These arrays are set up to fit the contours of the land.  On sloped land, as in the case of capped landfills, the panel rows curve to the slope.  Curved arrays are less obtrusive and reflective than flat arrays.  Glare has been an issue elsewhere (airports) and there are a variety of ways to deal with it so the resulting array isn’t reflective, just flat black.  2.5-5 acres are needed per megawatt.  The largest it could get is 10 acres.

Old landfills offer cleared sites already owned by each town which should make the solar power almost the same cost as having panels on your own land.  If building the array included the cost of purchasing and clearing 10 acres, that would make it more costly than having panels at home.

Assuming it is not in a hamlet, a landfill array would require an APA permit.    Keene’s location is a perfect south facing exposure.  It will, of course, be visible, as a black area, from surrounding mountains, an issue that will come up in the permitting process.

There are, of course, lots of details you can read in the links provided above.  But this may be a real break through for making solar PV broadly available to Park residents.  At the moment, only a lucky few residents have a location and the space needed for panels at home.  May 1, 2016 is the official ‘opening day’ for this sort of project but proposals can be filed now.


Meeting About Demographics in the Blue Line

Demographic Trends in the Adirondacks
Rockefeller Institute, 411 State Street, Albany
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Adirondack Research Consortium

One of the difficult things about the Park is the problem finding accurate demographic data because the Blue Line does not fit with town lines, school district lines, county lines or any other standard.  We ran into this with ADK Futures.  It is a well known problem.  This short meeting will host presentation of a demographic analysis about the region that was built up using census block data, and adjusted to handle prison populations.  There will also be a presentation about broader trends to put the regional work into context.  Finally there will be an hour or so to discuss the policy implications of the data.

It should be a good meeting.  Real data is always a good thing and often surprises.  The venue means limited space, about 100 people.  So you need to call to get  a seat.  Michele Charbonneau at the Rockefeller Institute at (518) 443-5258 is the person to reach.

2nd ADK Diversity Symposium Next Saturday, August 15

Next Saturday, August 15, 2015, the second Symposium: Toward A More Diverse Adirondacks will be held at the Adirondack Interpretive Center.

Multiple perspectives will be present, stimulating rich conversations exploring a wide range of human diversity issues within the Adirondack Park. This year’s symposium will focus on youth and diversity, and include panels led by regional high school and college students.

A symposium reflection/summary piece written by Dave Gibson after last year’s event can be found on the Adirondack Almanack.

CGA Forum 2015 Climate Change Workgroup

2015 CGA Group Photo cropped

This year’s Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Forum was held on July 15 in Long Lake.  Most of the day was devoted to workgroup activity around 9 topics, one of which was the region’s response to climate change, which we led.  Fourteen people participated in our workgroup and we had very productive and creative discussions.  The summary report on our discussions is available here.

Of particular note was the “fantasy stretch goal” that we were challenged to come up with by the Forum organizers.  Our group put forth the idea that we should set ourselves the goal of doing better than net zero with respect to emissions.  We should have net negative emissions.  This would come about by the combination of dramatically reducing our emissions, in line with what everyone should be doing to combat climate change, and strengthening the health and carbon storage capabilities of our forests and soils through the latest forest management and agricultural practices.  That’s a strategy that we can sign up for!