NORTH HUDSON - Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Boreas Ponds on Sunday, Sept. 23 to promote tourism in the Adirondack Park and to celebrate the state's plan to acquire 69,000 acres here over the next five years.
"This is such a magnificent site that it is indescribable," Cuomo said. "I've been (to the central Adirondacks) many, many times, but it's just too beautiful to describe in words. You can't explain to people how special this place is and how excited we are about this acquisition."
The 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. lands are currently off limits to the public and owned by The Nature Conservancy, but Cuomo signed a contract in August to purchase the lands in phases over the next five years. Once they are acquired, they will be added to the Forest Preserve. The comptroller signed off on the deal last week, it was announced.
Government officials and members of the media paddle on Boreas Ponds Sunday, Sept. 23. In the background is the Great Range — from left, Basin, Saddleback, Gothics and Pyramid — in the High Peaks Wilderness.
On this field trip, Cuomo was joined by senior staffers and members of his cabinet, including Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. There were also members of the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council and the North Country's Economic Regional Development Council, state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queenbsbury, North Hudson town Supervisor Ron Moore and Mike Carr, who directs the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
In addition, 20 members of the media, who were from all over the state, traveled to Boreas Ponds for the event.
During a question-and-answer session before the crowd broke up into smaller excursion groups, Cuomo was asked by a downstate reporter why he had invited the media here.
"Many of us (have) known each other for many years, and I believe this is something that you would want to see, just on a personal level," Cuomo said. "I also want to publicize it. I want people all across the state to see this parcel. I want people in New York City to see this parcel. I want the people in New York City to know that from a tourism standpoint, there's northern New York. The orientation is often east-west when you're in New York. My point is that if you live in New York state, there is no reason that you need to leave New York state to vacation. Whatever you could want to do, you could do in the state."
Afterward, Cuomo jumped in an electric motorboat and trolled for brook trout with a Lake Clear warbler lure and worm. Standing up in the middle of the boat, Cuomo pulled in one brook trout, about 8 inches long.
For most of his fishing trip, Cuomo was off by himself, except for when a few journalists paddled by to get photos. Afterward, he hopped in the canoe with New York Times reporter Thomas Kaplan and joined a group of paddlers on the water. Cuomo sat in the stern, with an array of fall colors and High Peaks spread out behind him.
"The best government is a government that works on a horizontal access, that approaches a problem as one," Cuomo said. "So the more team building we can do - the more relationships I can form among commissioners, among agencies - the better."
One of those in a canoe was Little. Often a critic of Forest Preserve land deals in the Adirondacks, the senator thought it was a big step to have Cuomo and his staff in the Adirondacks, finding out more about the issues and the landscape.
"Some of the commissioners and members of the governor's cabinet had never been in the Adirondacks before," Little said. "If they've been north of Albany, it might have been to one particular destination, to go to Montreal or go that way, so I think this was important."
Cuomo has been coming to the Adirondacks since he was a child and has been spotted in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake numerous times since he's been governor. Little seems to believe he has a good understanding of the issues here because of his efforts to not only protect land but to create a business environment that can support communities.
"I think the governor understands the need for balance in the Adirondacks, and I think that's why he's doing this," she said.
Cuomo and his staff definitely made it clear that this land deal is supposed to bring money into the Park through recreational tourism, something Carr has been touting since the Conservancy bought the land in 2007.
"We want to bring people to the Park so that the communities that these properties are located in, that they benefit as well," Martens said, "that people that come to enjoy these places have places to stay, places to buy food and places to buy gas. We hope this spurs lots of economic development in the Park because that's what it's all about. It's about protecting special places and doing things for the 110 communities in the Park that need tourism dollars to sustain themselves."
Cuomo called this the "greatest acquisition in over 100 years.
"We have made the Park a better park, and we have made the Park a bigger park," he said. "(This) is a generational gift that we give to our children and our grandchildren, so we will pass on the Park, in a better place and a better condition than it is was given to us."