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August 16 Symposium “Toward a More Diverse Adirondack Park’

The Park’s first diversity symposium is on Saturday August 16 at the SUNY ESF Newcomb Campus from 8am-5pm.

The web site with registration information, the agenda and details can be found here.  For additional information please call John Sheehan at the Adk Council, 518-432-1770

Participating organizations include:  Adirondack Almanack, Adirondack Council, Adirondack Foundation, Adirondack Futures, John Brown Lives, SUNY ESF, the Common Ground Alliance  and The Wild Center.

Here is a link to a post abut the event on the Adk Life blog.

For background, see this current report analyzing diversity in enviro groups and this article about the same issue.  It is a bigger issue than the Adirondacks, for sure, but go look at the Boards and staff of the enviro groups related to our Park for some insight about us.  It isn’t conscious, I don’t believe, but the situation speaks for itself.

The Park’s demographics are strikingly at variance with the rest of NY State, and particularly the cities, in most every dimension from age to race, to language, to sexual orientation and on down the list.  This widening gap is one possible route to failure in the Park’s future. Today we get the full attention of Albany, but there is nothing the suggest it will stay this way.  A big election, with high city voter turnout, could change a lot of things pretty quickly.

A few decades back, the issue was ‘home rule’ being trumped by excessive outside attention. But now the risk suggested by demographic trends is the actually opposite.  It is the possibility that the Park will become a largely neglected, abandoned, and increasingly irrelevant backwater of the State.  We need to find ways to make the people who visit and live here a better reflection of the state’s population.

The Park and the Forest Preserve exist at the pleasure of NY State voters.   The lofty notion that it is ‘forever’ is only actually true until an amendment on the ballot changes it.  It is not nearly the bedrock certainty that the tone of the Forever Wild language implies.

Please come join us at this symposium to share,  to think, and to learn about this challenge to our region.  Think of this as a starting point.  See you on August 16th?

Thanks to Pete Nelson for actually getting attention focused on this issue.

2014 Common Ground Alliance Forum Report

The documentation for this year’s CGA Forum is now available to download here.

The 2014 Forum was largely a work group based format.  Two months before the Forum, the Core Team circulated a survey monkey poll to the entire CGA email list, the ADK Futures email list and the Adk Council also sent a link to members.  People were asked to pick 5 topics of interest for discussion from a list of 29 topics.

The top 14 were each assigned a Core Team member to facilitate.  This report captures the work of all the groups.  If you wanted to be in another group, this is how you find out what they talked about.

Feedback cards were given back to us by 57 of the 170 attendees.  The report transcribes the comments and groups them by topic. There were all sorts of comments:  suggested projects, business ideas, format suggestions, topics for upcoming years and more.  Please do read them. They will help you see you are part of something pretty big, very grassroots, covering a broad set topics and needs.

This is the best comment, capturing what CGA strives to be:   This is one of the most important events of the year in the Adirondacks. The people who attend are the leaders, knowledgeable about the progress, projects, etc. They have a sophisticated understanding of the barriers and issues. They can point the way to next steps

There is rarely much press about Common Ground.  But Brian Mann was at the Forum this year and posted this report.  It does give you a sense of the progress we are experiencing, in a style that is notably different from our national debates.  That is something all of you should be proud of.


2014 CGA Forum Materials

The 2014 CGA Forum is this Wednesday July 16 at the Sabattis Pavilion in Long Lake.  For those of you who would like to have the materials distributed at the Forum electronically, we are posting them here.  The theme of the Forum is Collaboration Works and the main focus of the day is a workgroup activity organized around 14 topics chosen through an online survey.

Everyone at the Forum will receive the following:

Slides used at the Forum, including workgroup exercise instructions.

The ADK Futures Vision Statement.

The CGA Amendment Working Group White Paper and FAQ


In addition, if you participate in a workgroup you get a set of handouts specific to the workgroup topic.  The 14 workgroup topics and their associated data packets are:

1. Backing off the back country, promoting hamlet life.

2. Recreation and Destination Planning.

3. Thwarting invasive species.

4. The Adirondack response to Climate Change

5. Scaling up the local food sector

6. Forging a regional identity

7. Financing innovations for small businesses

8. Water:  waste treatment, storm management, drinking water

9. Enhancing the stability of our Forest and Agriculture industries

10. Transportation infrastructure improvements

11. Renewable energy

12. Making small school great yet affordable

13. State Land Master Plan update

14. Arts, culture and heritage as drivers of Park revitalization


Hope to see you there.

FAQ about the Amendment Proposal

The previous post here was the release of a White Paper proposing an amendment to Article 14 to enable Adirondack communities to handle modernization of utilities, improve water quality, handle adaptations to climate change weather and improve habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife.

It is a two part proposal – a use amendment and a land bank (the third). It generated some excellent questions from a variety of people.

This link contains the Frequently Asked Questions and their responses.  The first post of this file generated more questions, so they have been added to the file.  We will continue to add questions, so check back here for updates.  The current file is called FAQ6.

Start here if you are not familiar with the current state of Article 14 of NYS Constitution. Scroll down to Article XIV.


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.

Adk Park Trail User Database Presentation

Ever wonder what happens to trail registers?  A research project run by Abigail Larkin and Colin Beier at the SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb has been building a database using the 2012 trail register data.  Abbie previewed her work at the Adk Research Consortium’s annual event in May and there are many interesting data points emerging already.  Here are a few to peak your interest:

– There are 2,350 miles of DEC trails in the Park.  The study found 210 usable register stations. There are an estimated 95 more than were not received or usable by the study.  There are additional non-DEC trails – we have a lot of trails – but this is a good data set to work with.

– Usage totals 565,502 person-days, 21% hike alone, 66% hike in groups of 2-4, 13% in groups of 5 or more

– 88% are day trips, just 12% camp overnight

– Adk Loj is the most visited with 54,511 people.  Second is Rondax / Bald Mtn with 30,388 people, near Old Forge, a one mile hike to a restored fire tower and great views.

– Generally, peak use is in July and August seeing 120,000 people each month.  Variances show up in special use areas, for example a region with lots of hunters or ski trails.

– Because hikers register their destination, the data revels detailed trail segment use information.  This can help maintenance planning.

– Hikers also write down what town they are from.  Regional promotions by organizations like ROOST can be more effective by focusing on geographic areas where visitors commonly reside.

– A higher portion of Park residents are trail users than any other area of the State (except Rochester).  NYC sends large absolute numbers, but <.1% of the population.

– Analytic work can model the road network used by visitors to any register, enabling one to see what services were available, or not, along these routes.

WOW, such data, about each trail!  It can help marketing each area.  It can also help with stewardship, maintenance plans, and suggest business opportunities related to the trail assets of an area.  But this is only based on one year of data, 2012.  It would be great if funding would appear to do this for a few years in a row.

Here is an idea:  If there is cell phone coverage at a trail head, ask hikers to register using their cell phone and enter the same info.  It would automatically be summarized each year. Imagine how much we would learn about the typical visitor to our trails.  Of course, you would have to have paper registers too for people without phones.  There would be plenty more surprises, I am sure.

Take some time and review Abbie’s presentation here.














Adk Research Consortium Keynote Shows New Public Website and Software

Most plans get written then abandoned.  Not ADK Futures.  The new website shown to the public will help everyone track what is actually happening vs all the events and scenarios.  Since no single person runs our Park, we all have to have a quick and easy way to check on progress.

The 2014 Adirondack Research Consortium annual conference was last week.  We offered the keynote this year where we showed how to use the new scenario tracking software.  We talked through screen shots with simple pointers, then we showed an analysis using the database of the last 18-24 months of data on what is actually going on in the Park vs the events and scenarios from the workshop series.  This is the first time we have shown the new software to the public.

Take a minute to review the presentation here: ARC May 2015 draft 1-2.

It will only take you 5 minutes to get a quick primer on how to use the new website.

Next, go to see and try your own hand at using the tool to come up to speed on current events in a category that you are interested in.

The purpose of the new website is to enable anyone to see the progress we are making (or lack of it) on any of the wide range of issues facing the Park.  The vision work has been very successful and literally hundreds of items of evidence showing progress can be viewed.  This whole project is grassroots and, while we have plenty of leaders, we have no boss, no single go-to person responsible for the Park.  We are all responsible for it.  So without a CEO asking ‘what happened to that planning and visioning work?’  we need some kind of public feedback service we can all check any time we’d like to.  That is the need ADKfutures,net is attempting to address.  You can also help do the work of tracking Park-wide activity but registering and participating.  But this will enable anyone to simply check in and see how we’re doing.






Paul Smith’s College Commencement, May 2014

On May 10, we were presented with honorary Doctorates (Humane Letters, Lhd) at Paul Smiths 2014 commencement for our work on this project and others work in the Park.  The following is our commencement speech, aimed at the PSC Class of 2014.

(Dave)Dr. Mills, Board of Trustees and members of the
Administration, Faculty, Staff and Alumni of Paul Smiths College,
To the Class of 2014, and your families and friends,

Thank you for this great honor.

(Jim)People have been asking us “How will we ever thank you?”. Well, we feel very thanked and humbled by this award.

(Dave) To the graduates, we have one simple message today: Vision matters. The first step to better times is to imagine them. Imagine your vision and make it happen.

We offer three examples of the vision thing from our lives to illustrate what we mean. First —

(Jim) I had the great fortune to be part of the software development teams that invented and developed today’s Internet during the late 1970’s.

I am often asked if the people who dreamed up the Internet ever envisioned that it would turn out to be so pervasive and transformational.

I always answer emphatically, yes — what has happened is what they hoped would happen: that every computer in the world could talk to any other computer in the world over a common high-speed network.

What they got wrong was estimating how many computers there would be in the world. Only a few thousand, they thought. It is astonishing that their vision could scale up to handle the billions of computers we have today but connecting them all is exactly what they set out to do.

Our second example of vision —

(Dave) Jim and I developed a consulting business in the 1990’s that helped large multi-nationals cope with the advent of the Internet, especially computer and telephone companies. “What was the internet going to do to our business?” was a good question at the time.

When we sold the company and moved to our home in Keene, NY, in 2004, it was natural that we would take an interest in the Internet service provider in town. We were shocked to find the ISP on its last legs, ready to fold and close the doors.

However, we knew that good Internet service would soon be essential to most households and that every school student would need broadband Internet access at home to be ready for college and life.  Our vision was getting everyone in town on the network.

One challenge for us was that we had never done a community project before. We thought the right way to begin would be inviting leading citizens in town to listen to our ideas about universal broadband Internet.

Everyone we invited came, but they spent the entire evening telling us why our idea could never work.

So, we never met with them again.

We went on to put together funding by combining private philanthropy, business contracts and some State money. We joined in with our hard-working, motivated, locally owned ISP to build the network into the far reaches of town and more than double the number of subscribers.

Today over 95% of houses in town can get fiber-to-the-home broadband and the ISP is a nice business that continues network upgrades without subsidies. Most importantly, every home with a child in the school is on the network, our original vision.
Now our third and most recent example —

(Jim) Most recently we have managed to forge a fairly detailed consensus vision for the Adirondack Park.

Again, at first, we were heard “expect a lot of heated disagreement”. ”Don’t expect to get very far” they told us. Conflict has been a dominant theme here over the past 40 years.

But conditions were right. There was no regional plan or strategy or even a forum for talking about such a thing and certainly no shared vision. So we stepped into that void.

We were as shocked as anyone when our scenario process first produced a very strong consensus on a desirable and attainable future we call The Sustainable Life. We ran the process over and over with different groups, expecting them to reach different conclusions. But the consensus only got better defined.

And now we have a vision for the next 25 years of the Adirondack Park where both the protected lands and the human communities stay healthy and whole. Driven by changing demographics, an ever-evolving global marketplace and the deepening reality of global climate change, this vision of living a more sustainable life here in the Adirondacks was written with your ideas and aspirations in mind, you, the next generation, the class of 2014.

At Paul Smiths you have learned vital skills and absorbed the foundation knowledge of many of the key disciplines that define this future vision of our region. From hospitality to forestry to environmental remediation, you and your colleagues will go on to implement the core of this vision: using the forests and lakes responsibly for the benefit of today’s communities and future generations. Make this vision real. Stay here if you can or come back soon and be part of it.

(Dave) The Adirondack Futures Project is a great example of how alignment around a common set of goals and aspirations, a vision, can speed progress. Widely shared intentions are what power social agendas and get you past inevitable bumps in the road. It was well worth the effort of 3 years to do it right.

As we finish, people tell us that the visioning process, which involved over 500 people, has indirectly affected the thinking of thousands and already had substantial positive impact on the region. Individuals have told us that it has inspired them to participate in the revitalization of the region, and given them a sense of how to contribute independently without an overall leader.

Our message is this: become more vision-driven in your life. We like the quote “Chance favors the prepared mind” by Louis Pasteur.

If you have a vision of where you want to go, then you can easily recognize a good opportunity when you see it.

Understand that developing a vision is not about predicting the future, or guessing what will happen. You can’t know what is going to happen.

We advocate a process of imagining at least 3 really different alternative visions for yourself, your organization, your town, etc. Be creative. Don’t be just binary (good/bad). Capture multiple points of view, learn from the extremes and the middle ground too.

(Jim) Let this process take some time, talk to lots of different people, try to find unique points of view. But come up with at least 3 plausible paths forward.

Another favorite quote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

So we’re asking you to hold 3 thoughts. It’s fun.

Debating with yourself, your spouse, or your colleagues, the merits and problems of at least 3 divergent future visions helps move people ahead and off the current disputes.

Then, when you commit to implement a specific vision, keep the discarded scenarios as backup. If things don’t turn out as planned (this happens all the time), it will be handy to have the old options to review when your 1st choice fails.

The alternatives not followed give you signposts to tell you early that your desired future plan, your scenario, just isn’t happening.

Then what? Well, it’s OK to be wrong, if you’re the first to figure it out and if you already have alternative courses of action in mind. If you are the last to figure out you made a mistake, then, you’re in deep trouble. So you need to be alert enough and thoughtful enough to be the first to get the clue that you need to change course.

This way of thinking about direction setting is scalable from the specific (what job do I take) to global (how to adapt to climate change). The instructions are really very simple:

Dream 3 dreams, choose, act, reflect, correct, repeat. Everyone can do it.

Good luck to you all. Thank You

Jim Herman speaking at Paul Smith's Commencement 2014

Jim Herman speaking at Paul Smith’s Commencement 2014



Presentation @Paul Smith’s Center for Working Landscapes

Here is a link to Paul Smiths Forest Farm Fork presentation by Dave Mason on April 21.  The event was titled “Forest, Farm and Fork, an Opportunity Symposium” and the focus was on a wide array of grant programs, mostly available through the USDA.  The general theme was based on the recently passed Farm Bill.

The new Center views our working landscape as 3 components:  farms, production forests, and tourism related to recreational landscapes.  The Center is a joint venture with Paul Smiths bringing expertise in forestry and hospitality and Cornell Cooperative Extension bringing agricultural expertise.  There will be more program news about the Center soon.

The ADK Futures presentation briefly recapped the economic strategy that was derived from the project’s workshops and then walked through all the progress of the last 18 months on local food, local energy, broadband and tourism.  The progress is impressive, but not widely known so take a minute to look at the file.   The Farm Bill includes USDA funding for rural broadband development, which is why the topic was included.

The update information was derived from the new ADK Futures news tracking database.  This database attaches links to current news and research reports to the events used in the ADK Futures scenario workshops.  The idea is to provide a way for the public to see what progress is being made  – think of it as a feedback loop so people can tell if the ADK Futures vision is moving ahead, or not.   You can look through the data by going to


CGA 2013 Documentation Available

This year’s Forum was a celebration of progress through collaboration.  Almost 200 people gathered on a hot summer day to continue to address the problems of the region and to find ways to move forward together.  There was a palpable sense of energy and forward progress.  An informal poll showed consensus that we are moving forward in important areas, although there remains concern about addressing water quality issues and adaptation to climate change.  Most importantly, there is agreement that the region’s self-esteem is definitely on the upswing.  The morning sessions highlighted progress in important areas of tourism development, community sustainability and water quality improvement.  All emphasized the collaborative efforts taking place throughout the Park.  We presented a summary of the year’s events in terms of each of the six scenarios.  For the most part, our preferred scenarios are happening and the ones we want to avoid are not, but there is a long way to go still to fully realize them.  The day ended with Bob Bendick offering a vision of creative conservation, where entire communities and regions take up the preservation of our natural resources together with a shared sense of the benefits.

The full documentation for the Forum can be downloaded here.

Our presentation on the year’s events for each scenario can be downloaded here.

We also released an updated version of the ADK Futures Vision, which can be downloaded here.

Thanks to all who participated and have remained engaged in the Common Ground process.