Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the latest phase of New York State's acquisition of 69,000 acres to the State Forest Preserve formerly owned by Finch Pruyn & Company, as well as $875,000 in available grants for projects to develop sites within the Adirondack Park and further position the region as a world-class tourism and recreation destination.
"Expanding the State Forest Preserve will provide new year-round recreational opportunities to New Yorkers and tourists alike and continue to grow the North Country's economy," Governor Cuomo said. "Protecting these lands and providing grants for site improvements helps ensure that the Forest Preserve remains an unparalleled natural, recreational, and economic asset available to all visitors."
The lands acquired from the properties formerly owned by Finch Pruyn & Company will protect miles of waterways and open spaces. To better improve the recreational and economic opportunities available, the $875,000 in grants will fund hiking, horseback riding trails, biking, snowmobiling and connector trails, as well as smart growth planning in the region.
Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said, Time and time again Governor Cuomo has demonstrated his commitment to bettering the Adirondack Park and increasing opportunities for growth in the North Countrys economy and tourism industry. These grants will strengthen the connection between local communities and State Forest lands in the heart of the Adirondack Park and help municipalities take advantage of all these extraordinary lands have to offer.
Third Phase of Acquisitions of the former Finch Pruyn & Co. Properties
In fulfillment of its 2012 pledge to expand the State Forest Preserve and acquire 69,000 acres of former Finch properties over the next five years, New York State has purchased an additional 8,451 acres of former Finch lands in Fulton, Warren, Essex and Hamilton counties. The State will pay $5.7 million to acquire the tracts from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), using the States Environmental Protection Funds (EPF). Already, the state has completed two acquisition phases totaling 30,037 acres. The 14 new parcels contain miles of rivers and streams, ponds, wildlife habitat and trails, and offer exceptional opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, cross country skiing and mountain biking. The properties include:
- Benson Road (a.k.a. Tomantown), which borders the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest, features habitat for black bear and bald eagles, regionally-rare plants like Canadian burnet, spruce northern hardwood forests, and connects snowmobile trails in the Towns of Mayfield and Bleeker. (Fulton County, 3,820 acres)
- Black Spruce Mountain, which is adjacent to the Lake George Wild Forest, features Black Spruce Mountain and a section of Podunk Brook. (Warren County, 191 acres)
- Township 33 (Sugarloaf Mt.), which features a section of the popular 120-mile Northville-Placid trail, as well as an exposed cliff. (Hamilton County, 451 acres)
- Good Luck Tract, which features northern hardwood and spruce-fir forests, will provide access to Stonystep and Big Bad Luck ponds. (Hamilton County, 418 acres)
- Buell Valley, which features Buell Brook and was once the site of the Finch Pruyn's river drive pusher dam. (Hamilton County, 10 acres)
- Cedar Ridge features two small ponds and is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Wilderness, which hosts a major section of the Northville-Placid Trail. (Hamilton County, 548 acres)
- Blue Ridge Road, which can potentially provide enhanced recreational access to the Dix Mountain Wilderness. (Essex County, 77 acres)
- Hudson River Hyslop, near the state-run Harris Lake Campground, can potentially have improved access to Duck Hole. (Essex County, 301 acres)
- North River, which features floodplain and upland forests and more than one mile of Hudson River shorelines. This tract is located opposite the take-out area along State Route 28 used by commercial rafting companies for whitewater rafting through protected forests on the Indian and Hudson Rivers. (Essex and Warren Counties, 155 acres)
In addition to thousands of acres in the Adirondack Park, this phase of the land acquisition includes properties just south of the blue line in Saratoga County, favored for its mountain biking trails, hunting and other recreational activities. These properties -- the Daniels Road tract (519 acres), the Penn York tract (241 acres) and the Town Line tract (176 acres) -- also offer exceptional forest settings, attractive hilly terrain, wetlands, marshes and riparian habitats. In addition, the Town of Edinburg will be able to move forward with the acquisition of 1,248 acres on Fox Hill Road, and plans to improve outdoor recreation and snowmobile trails with a boardwalk over wetlands. Another 154 acres known as Town Corners will consolidate wetlands in Greenfield.
$875,000 in Grants for Recreational and Smart Growth Projects
New Yorks Natural Heritage Trust (NHT), in conjunction with TNC and DEC, is offering grants to local municipalities to support the implementation of projects that will enhance public access to the acquired land. In addition, EPF grants will be available to advance smart growth principles of economic development and environmental protection. Specifically, these grants for community development in the Adirondack Park consist of:
- $500,000 for Adirondack Park Upper Hudson Recreation Hub Grants program projects, including: seasonal shuttle service for hikers, bikers and paddlers; trailhead parking and waterway access on municipal lands; local infrastructure that supports such recreation uses as mountain biking, horse trail riding, snowmobiling and hiking; connector trails; hut-to-hut accommodations; guide services; and visitor orientation signs, apps and brochures. These grants are being funded by TNC and will be awarded through a Request for Proposals (RFP) to be announced this week in the NYS Contract Reporter and also on the DEC, TNC and NHT websites.
- $300,000 from the EPF for the Adirondack Smart Growth grant program will support key projects to build on existing smart growth plans, including capital projects and community development initiatives that that foster sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability.
A Request for Applications (RFA) is expected to be released in early spring. The Adirondack Smart Growth grant program will only be available through the new, statewide Grants Getaway, a web-based grants management system that can be used to browse all state agency grants available and anticipated grant opportunities. All applicants will need to register to use the gateway, and not-for-profit applicants are required to pre-qualify through the gateway for all grants opportunities. For additional information or to register for the program, visit the New York State Grants Reform website at www.grantsreform.ny.gov.
- $75,000 to support paddling events, which builds on the success of the 2013 Adirondack Challenge, which led to increased tourism across the region. TNC is providing this initial funding for these events to support the ecological and recreational values of the Adirondacks freshwater resources and new opportunities associated with the former Finch lands. These events will be coordinated through the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.
These programs advance the NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, which is an effort to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state and improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen. This includes the streamlining of fishing and hunting licensing, reducing license fees, and improving access for fishing and hunting at various sites across the state.
Senator Betty Little said, By offering a broad range of recreational opportunities, we can assure a wide-range of visitors the best experience possible and encourage many return visits to the Adirondacks. Ive talked with many local officials about their visions for maximizing the tourism economic development potential on these lands. Im pleased to see grant money being made available for biking, hiking, snowmobiling, paddling and promotion.
Assemblyman Dan Stec said, This funding will provide our local governments the opportunities to promote economic development and to enhance recreational opportunities for the residents and visitors of the North Country. Tourism is the economic engine for the Adirondacks.
TNC Adirondack Chapter Executive Director Michael Carr said, Under Governor Cuomos leadership, New York is protecting properties with exceptional conservation values and making them available to the public for hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing and other popular outdoor pursuits. These special properties include forests just north of the City of Saratoga Springs as well as tracts in the heart of the Adirondack Park. The Conservancy looks forward to continuing to work with local communities, regional tourism offices, and state agencies to unlock the potential for these spectacular lands to play a new role in the parks outdoor recreation and tourism economy.
NHT Executive Director Allen Payne said, The NHT is excited to be partnering with TNC, DEC and the local communities on this program. The Adirondacks are one of New York's greatest outdoor legacies and offer families and visitors an unmatched connection to nature and outdoor recreation. This program will provide local communities with the resources needed to provide more recreational, interpretive and educational opportunities at these newly acquired parklands. This truly is an important time in our environmental history and the NHT is looking forward to being a part of that history and tradition.
Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Bill Farber said, We strongly support the Governors vision that these lands should provide broad recreational opportunities for all recreational users. This investment of funds from TNC assures that the towns have the opportunity to connect the recreational opportunities back to their local economies.
Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Randy Douglas said, "We in Essex County are very happy that Governor Cuomo has stood true to his word once again in providing funding that will improve the economic climate in our small rural towns within Essex County. This $875,000 will help improve the quality of the lands and help us promote their natural beauty. I can't thank the Governor enough for his vision in helping us make the North Country a worldwide tourist attraction."
Supervisor of the Town of Indian Lake Brian Wells said, "Governor Cuomo has already shown an unprecedented commitment to Indian Lake and worked to guarantee that the entire North Country region benefits from increased tourism and recreational opportunity. The acquisition and preservation of our beautiful land, as well as providing grants to improve it, will translate to huge success. "
Supervisor of the Town of Long Lake Clark Seaman said, "It is great to see New York State investing in projects that aim to improve the quality of this beautiful region and generate new tourism dollars. I applaud the Governor for his leadership and vision in recognizing the incredible assets we have to offer here, and for positioning the region on the forefront on the worldwide stage."
Supervisor of the Town of North Hudson Ronald Moore said, "Governor Cuomo has stated that the opening of these lands will provide extraordinary new outdoor recreational opportunities, bring more visitors to the North Country, and create new tourism revenue. To realize that vision, the Five Towns believe that we must have reasonable access, a wide variety of allowed recreational uses, and we must have trails that connect our Towns. The funds that TNC has provided will help provide some of the necessary funding to the towns, to make the vision of economic success a reality."
Supervisor of the Town of Newcomb George Canon said, "I look forward to working with the other vie Town Supervisors to find ways to connect our communities to each other and to the Forest Preserve lands. This investment in projects which will draw visitors to the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub is important to enhancing local economies in the North Country."
Tourism Industry in New York
The 2014 Adirondack Winter Challenge, which took place yesterday in Lake Placid, aimed to highlight winter tourism in Upstate New York. The event drew over 400 state and local elected officials, staff, and winter sports enthusiasts from across New York State. At the event, Governor Cuomo announced the launch of the 'I Ski NY' Bus, which will take visitors from New York City and Toronto to 13 Upstate ski mountains during the 2014-2015 winter season.
New Yorks tourism industry is one of the top employers and economic generators in the state. According to recent projections, it is estimated that 8.8 million more visitors traveled to New York State in 2013 than in 2012, representing an increase of 4.2 percent. In addition, the industry is projected to have generated $7.7 billion in state and local taxes with direct spending expected to have reached $61.3 billion, up 7 percent from 2012 and double the national average.
The tourism industry is also projected to have added 24,800 jobs in 2013, a 3.1 percent increase from 2012, also double the national average. In total, leisure and hospitality is projected to have finished the year with 818,700 jobs, making tourism the third fastest growing job sector in New York State.