National Geographic : 1998 Jun
above Mount Colvin, almost touching it. Wish I could. Northway cut my driving time between New York City and Joe's place by two hours. Of course, it cut everyone else's time too. One of the first efforts to spare the Adiron dacks from the anticipated trampling was a proposal to create in the mountains a 1.7 million-acre national park, embracing both public and private lands. The proposal died for lack of support; most conservationists pre ferred the existing state park, however imper fect. Still, the federal scheme fostered a better idea, more relevant to holding the line against runaway development throughout the entire region. This was the creation by New York State of an Adirondack Park Agency, with the regu latory power to deny incompatible uses and control building densities on private land. Alas, the recent history of the Adirondacks has been dominated by accounts of skirmishes A SPECIAL PLACE: ADIRONDACK HIGH between the land-use agency and adversarial developers, politicians, and property rights groups. An office trashed. A barn burned. A shot fired. But the headlines obscured the real news-that for all the agency's battles, and some were lost, the controls so far have suc ceeded in barring chaotic development from much of the private land. Meanwhile, for most of the region's permanent residents, life goes on relatively unobstructed either by too much government or too little opportunity to share, however indirectly, in the modest benefits that backcountry tourism inevitably brings. "Oh, it's not as bad up here as some people let on," a local young man at a gas pump in Keene told me one day. "And it's not so good either. Never has been. But I'll tell you this. Be a whole lot worse-you know what I mean?-if everyone had his own way."