About Adirondack Park

6571 Adirondack Park is unlike other state parks in New York, which are managed by the office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Adirondack Park is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The APA’s headquarters is in a state office park near Saranac Lake, which serves as a centralized operations and enforcement center for the park, with a DEC building, the APA building, a state police complex, and a state correctional complex in a former tuberculosis hospital across the road. CLUI photo

The idea for Adirondack Park was discussed by preservationists as early as the 1850s, but it was propelled towards a reality in the 1870s, largely by the writings of the Adirondack explorer, surveyor, and author Verplank Colvin, who suggested “a park for New York, as Yosemite is for California.” There also were concerns, even then, about the negative effects of water diversions and logging in the Adirondacks threatening things like water levels in the Erie Canal. 
 
In 1885 681,000 acres of state land were set aside as Forest Preserve, protected in New York’s constitution as “forever wild.” In 1892 the governor of New York signed legislation creating Adirondack Park, defined as the area inside a “blue line” drawn on an official map, including the Forest Preserve, and a total of around three million acres, at that time. 
 
More land was added over the years, through acquisitions by the state, and agreements with major landowners, including lumber companies, railways, developers, and wealthy industrialists (who were often some or even all of the above). By the 1970s the park perimeter was set where it remains. The blue line contained around six million acres, more than half of which were, and are still, private land.
 
In 1971 the Adirondack Park Agency was established by the state to develop and enforce a master plan for the park. The agency developed regulations for the 2.5 million acres of state lands, which were largely protected under the “forever wild” clause, with five primary categories: wilderness, primitive, canoe, wild forest, and intensive use. 
 
The 3.5 million acres of private land in the park were classified as one of six land use categories: hamlet, low-intensity use, moderate intensity use, rural use, resource management use, and industrial use. Managing and enforcing activities allowed on these lands, as specified by law in the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, as it is known, has been the difficult task of the Adirondack Park Agency ever since.