The third ballot proposal was a bit confusing to many voters, but in the end, was passed but only by a slim majority.
The proposal allows for the state to purchase a land bank that can be used to improve parts of the communities in the Catskill and Adirondack Parks.
“This creates a process for the little projects. The ones like this bridge behind me where it only takes two-tenths of an acre,” John Sheehan, Communications Director for the Adirondack Council, said.
The Middleton Bridge requires only two-tenths of an acre to be fixed, but since that land is forest preserve land, the bridge has stayed closed since 2009.
“It would make sense that under certain circumstances and pre-approved conditions be part of a land swap that would allow forest preserve to be exchanged.”
Town leaders say it also makes sense because fixing this bridge could save a life.
“EMS response, fire response, it’s going to take off about ten minutes of response time going the detoured way,” Matt Simpson, Town Supervisor of Horicon, said.
The Adirondack Park alone sees around 10 million tourists every year, so maintaining the viability of these communities is important for the overall tourism industry in the state.
“Tourism is the number two industry in New York State and one that is very important to our future. I think any way we can help that without harming the wilderness at the same time is important,” Sheehan said.
Once the state has purchased the 250-acre land bank, communities in the Adirondacks and the Catskills will have the opportunity to petition the Department of Environmental Conservation with their projects.
Some of the upcoming projects is a new water line for the Town of Fine, a bike path throughout the parks, and most importantly as Sheehan points out, broadband.
“It’s not only important for personal communications but it’s really important for people who want to do business in the park and the easier we can make that the better we will be in the long term.”
The ballot proposal took almost six years to work out, but still only passed by a slim margin. Yet, Sheehan believes this is a good sign.
“I think that is a lesson for all of us to remember that people really care about the Adirondacks.”
As for the Middleton Bridge, it will still take a few years before it can be rebuilt since it still needs to be funded and the plans need to be approved.