My name is Carol W. LaGrasse. I reside in Stony Creek here in Warren County, and am a retired civil and environmental engineer and the president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, based in Stony Creek. PRFA, a national grassroots non-profit educational organization, was founded because of the disdain for private property ownership and property rights and the injustice that the Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC consistently exhibit. I will comment briefly about the betrayal and discrimination represented in the DEC management and plans for the Hudson River Recreation Area in Warrensburg, an important and once promising part of what DEC classifies as the Lake George Wild Forest.
Acquisition of the Hudson River Recreation Area
Recently I re-read a July 1992 Post-Star clipping about the complicated deal DEC made involving the Richard King Mellon Fund as the sponsor of the Conservation Fund to acquire beautiful forested land on the east bank of the Hudson in Warrensburg from the Niagara Mohawk Corporation. Any deal involving the DEC and that wealthy, radical preservationist land trust was questionable, at best, considering DEC's voracious appetite for private property to return to wilderness and the Conservation Fund's focus from its founding to remove human influence from waterway regions in order to preserve what they call "biodiversity."
But fourteen-year-old clipping states:
"The Hudson River Recreation Area, located in the Buttermilk Falls area, will provide picnic areas, hiking trails and mountain bicycle trails on about 500 wooded acres along the river. ...The Conservation Fund is also providing $41,000 to the county to help pay for the project" to complete the picnic areas and trails, the paper reported.
"Tucked inside 1,200 acres along the river are 75 picnic tables, more than 20 barbecue grills, 10 bathrooms and a 12-mile mountain bike trail," the Post-Star reported that August, referring to the larger overall tract in which the recreation area was included. Swimming and hiking were also allowed. A photo showed children frolicking on the Bear Slide, a smooth rock formation over which water naturally flows. All ages had free access by motor vehicle and enjoyed the area.
Since those days, the State has ultimately become owner of the Hudson River Recreation Area. The State blocked off most of the access to the area. The picnic tables and toilets are mainly gone. Camping spaces are limited.
But this betrayal is typical of DEC, as it strives to close down the access to the giant Forest Preserve. The Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves now exceed 3 million acres of land, mainly in the Adirondacks, much of which was private when the acquisition of the Hudson River Recreation Area was deceptively announced. In addition, the DEC holds close to 700,000 acres of conservation easements on what was recently private land with clear title, mainly in the Adirondacks. For significant tracts, the State announces the acquisition of the lands with fanfare, trumpeting that, now, the public will have access,-and later DEC closes the lands down.
But from betrayal, we go to discrimination. The DEC is creating a system of disabled Apartheid. In the Hudson River Recreation Area, isolated picnicking locations are being set up just for the disabled. This is a shell game, to accomplish exactly the opposite of the purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring that facilities that are open to people who are not formally declared as disabled be made accessible to the disabled. Instead, DEC closes down areas then opens a small number of selected areas as little ghettos for the disabled. But they cannot bring in their non-disabled friends and relatives for picnics and parties and they cannot join non-disabled people to recreate in the historic recreation areas because these are being steadily closed down. This is an insult to the disabled.
This is the betrayal of the DEC's UMP process: eliminating access by the people to the vast Forest Preserve-and disabled Apartheid.
The entire process of this and all the DEC UMPs has been an affront to the people and culture of the Adirondacks. Since my participation in so many DEC and APA hearings in New York City in 1972, not one of my comments has been taken into account or had any influence on these two agencies, but, once again, I urge you to listen to my comments and revise the plan to meet the law in response to fundamental human considerations.