The history of the Adirondack Park can be divided into a series of overlapping eras from the constitutional protection of the Forest Preserve, to the creation of the park, its incremental expansions, and the eventual regulation of land use within the park. The Adirondack Forest Preserve was originally created by the New York State Legislature in 1885. Two diverse groups–preservationists and merchants–agreed that this mountainous region of upstate New York needed protection. The preservationists were concerned about the environmental effects of large scale timber harvesting, while influential New York City merchants feared that the same timber cutting would reduce water flows to the Hudson River and Erie Canal. These waterways were major transportation corridors, and such disruption would have had an adverse effect on their commercial interests. Together, they achieved one of the earliest acts of public land protection in the country.
The photo above is a composite image of layers provided by NASA and NOAA. Nighttime lights and the Blue Line were superimposed on a daylight image of the northeastern United States and the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Seventy million people live within the bounds of the image. Only 132,000 people live within the Blue Line. APRAP would like to thank NOAA, NASA and Congressman John McHugh for their assistance in the creation of this photo.
The Adirondack Park was established in 1892. After some attempts to weaken the enabling legislation that created the forest preserve, the state gave the area even stronger protection in 1894 by amending the New York State
Constitution, Section 7, Article Seven. The following words were added:
“The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the Forest Preserve as now fixed by law, shall be kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
During the 1938 Constitutional Convention, these words were reaffirmed as Article Fourteen, the guiding principle for the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves. The Adirondack Park’s boundary has expanded several times, eventually encompassing a land mass of nearly 6 million acres. The park is comprised of 12 counties and 103 municipalities with approximately 132,000 residents. The region abounds with mountains, lakes and rivers scattered throughout a unique natural landscape. The Adirondack Park lies within a five hour drive for 50 million people who live in the urban centers of New York City, Boston, Montreal and Toronto. In 1971, New York State passed the Adirondack Park Agency Act which called for the development of two plans: the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan. These plans regulate use and development on all land–public and private–within the park.