Updated 04/11/2013 03:46 PM
Your Hometown: Adirondack State Park
When it comes to summertime in New York State, there are countless recreational opportunities. Over the next several weeks, our trips to Your Hometowns will take us to the many beautiful state parks throughout the region. And what better place to start than with a park that accounts for one-fifth of the state's land area. Our Cara Thomas takes us to the largest publicly protected park in the United States, the Adirondack State Park.
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ADIRONDACK STATE PARK, N.Y. -- The Adirondacks is a mountainous area which includes more 10-thousand lakes... covering more than 6 million acres of land. But the Adirondack State Park wasn't always protected by the state.
In the 1800's, settlers viewed the land as a wild and forbidding wilderness, a place where Native Americans had roamed for millennia. But it wasn't long before the Adirondacks became a place to vacation.
Hallie Bond, the Adirondack Museum Curator said, “It was men who were in an office, fairly upper class men who had some money and some time to get away started hearing about this place where the sporting was wonderful, hauls of trout and deer."
But the Adirondacks wasn't only viewed as a nice getaway location. Loggers and miners saw the vast natural resources as an easy way to make money.
Bond said, “And that was about the time when people in the state of New York and particularly in the legislature started discussing protecting the land."
But the state didn't just want to protect the land for sentimental reasons. When loggers settled in the area and they began clearing the land, flooding became a serious issue. Without the trees and shrubs holding the water back, areas would flood and during the summer, canals would dry up, hurting the economy downstate. It was then in 1885 that the New York State Forest Preserve was created to protect all state owned lands.
Keith McKeever, of the Adirondack Park Agency said, “They cannot be cut or timbered over, or any kind of commercial activity whatsoever so in New York State the Adirondack Park is protected by the highest law in the land which is our state constitution."
Specifically Article 14, known as the 'forever wild clause', which states; "The lands now or hereafter constituting them shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be sold, nor shall they be leased or taken by any person or corporation public or private."
And it was only a few years later in 1892, the Adirondacks became a state park, a one of a kind. Unlike the other New York State Parks, about 60 percent of the land is privately owned, allowing people to reside and work within the park itself.
Bond said, “I think it's a real privilege to be able to live in the middle of this area and have so much natural beauty around you."
A lot has changed since the 1800's, many towns have been created and more than 130-thousand people live in the 6 million acre park. But some aspects of the park aren't meant to change and that's what people say they love about it.
McKeever said, “The Forest preserve parts of the land have been intact since the late 1800s so we're really seeing, on those lands that are maintained and protected under the constitution, we're seeing nature take its course."
And it’s the open space, wilderness, and small town atmosphere that attracts tourists to the area. With more than 2 thousand miles of trail throughout the park, numerous world-renown outdoor recreation activities and attractions... the Adirondacks attracts people from all over the globe.
Bond said, “We've had people coming from Bellarouse and Italy for example to see how we manage here. Trying to balance the demands of keeping the landscape as wild as it can be and allowing people to live here."
McKeever said, “You can come here, you can live here, you can work here and you can recreate here so it's really, by its size and by the fact that it is a combination of public and private lands, it's a park like no other."
To continue preserving the Park, the Adirondack Park Agency was created in 1971. And to this day is given the responsibility to ensure conservation and development by using the natural resources of the Adirondack Park.
I Love My Park Day is a new statewide effort to celebrate and enhance the state’s parks and historic sites. It’s sponsored in part by YNN and Time Warner Cable Sports Channel and will take place on Saturday, May 4th.
Volunteers from across the state will be participating in cleanup and improvement events at parks throughout the region. If you would like to take part or donate to the cause, visit www.ptny.org.