Adirondack State Park, the largest state-protected preserve in the contiguous United States, grew by 69,000 acres Sunday in the greatest single addition to the park in over a century.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state's $49.8 million acquisition Sunday, saying that it will preserve a significant portion of the upper Hudson River watershed and help boost tourism.
"Today's agreement will make the Adirondack Park one of the most sought-after destinations for paddlers, hikers, hunters, sportspeople and snowmobilers," he stated. "Opening these lands to public use and enjoyment for the first time in 150 years will provide extraordinary new outdoor recreational opportunities, increase the number of visitors to the North Country and generate additional tourism revenue."
Cuomo added that public access to these lands will draw visitors to population centers that rely on year-round tourism opportunities. It will also open up new routes for hiking and paddling and link miles of snowmobile trails.
The land will be sold off over a five-year period by the Nature Conservancy, which bought a 161,000-acre timberland property from Finch Pruyn in 2007.
"The Nature Conservancy is proud to work with New York State under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner Joe Martens and to celebrate such a historic conservation project," said Bill Ulfelder, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in New York. "Conserving these spectacular lands and waters as part of the publicly owned Forest Preserve will make some of the most beautiful places in the Adirondacks open to the public for the first time in 150 years. New York is doing more than conserving lands and waters; it is investing in the recreation and tourism economy that is so vital to the North Country and its future."
The conservancy said outdoor recreation contributes $11.3 billion to the state's economy annually, supporting 130,000 jobs.
Included in the state's new 69,000 acres are 175 lakes and ponds, more than 180 miles of rivers and streams and six mountains above 2,000 feet. It also includes five percent of the Upper Hudson River watershed and extensive habitat for mammals like the moose, bobcat and black bear, and aquatic habitat for brook trout, landlocked salmon and small and large-mouth bass.
Adirondack Park Agency Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich said Sunday's announcement helps "preserve some of the most spectacular natural resources and scenery in the Adirondacks, while also promising the people of the Adirondacks that they are going to be able to use these lands and help derive economic benefits from their increased public use."
The bulk of the purchase is centered around tourism-heavy towns such as Newcomb, Indian Lake and Minerva. Local business leaders welcomed the state's investment as it is expected to open up new opportunities for revitalization and sustainable development.
Ten million people visit the Adirondacks annually, spending over $1 billion at local inns, restaurants, conveniences stores and outdoor outfitters, according to state figures. The tourism industry supports one out of every five jobs in the area, and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council believes it's a vital growth sector of the upstate economy.