Municipalities within the Adirondack and Catskill parks could find it easier to make infrastructure and utility improvements if Proposal Three is approved by voters on November 7.
On Election Day, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote “yes,” granting Adirondack and Catskill communities the right to make infrastructure adjustments and recreational projects on state forest preserve land, without requiring a separate constitutional amendment for each project.
The Adirondack and Catskill parks consist of millions of acres of forever-wild state forest preserve land. Local communities thrive on the forest preserve, which draws tourism and serves as an economic and environmental asset to the region.
The challenge for those municipalities comes when, for example, a bridge is in need of relocation to optimize transportation or when a fiber optic cable needs installation to strengthen communication between emergency service facilities. Those necessary projects are not permitted on forest preserve land without the prolonged and costly process of passing a state constitutional amendment.
Proposal Three would establish The Public Health and Safety Land Account, a solution to the current difficulties. The account would consist of 250 acres of land that local governments could purchase and add onto the Forest Preserve in a quantity that replaces the amount used in their necessary public works projects.
For example, if one-third of an acre of Forest Preserve land was taken up by a bridge’s relocation, that same amount of The Public Health and Safety Land Account would be purchased by the municipality that’s making the alterations and donated back into the Forest Preserve.
It is estimated that since most of these community projects require only small pieces of land, the 250-acre account would be manageable for the next 50 years by the localities.
The ballot question will appear as follows:
“The proposed amendment will create a land account with up to 250 acres of forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns; as a substitute for the land removed from the forest preserve, another 250 acres of land, will be added to the forest preserve, subject to legislative approval. The proposed amendment also will allow bicycle trails and certain public utility lines to be located within the width of specified highways that cross the forest preserve while minimizing removal of trees and vegetation.
“Shall the proposed amendment be approved?”
The town of Chester in Warren County has proposed efforts to relocate a bridge over the Schroon River for the past seven years but has been unable to get clearance because the bridge would extend onto a portion of the state Forest Preserve Land.
According to Chester officials, the relocation would improve emergency response to a number of local residences. The travel distance would be reduced by approximately 5 miles for all forms of local transportation including school buses.
If Proposal Three is approved, the small area of land that is less than 20 percent of an acre can be removed from the preserve and replaced with land from the account, allowing the project to finally go forward. Warren County would also be required to pay the state fair market value for the land or donate a piece of land of comparable size and value.
There are countless stories like the one in Warren County that pose a challenge to the 128 towns and villages in the Adirondacks and Catskills. According to the various localities, most of the requested alterations would benefit local residents.
Proposal Three has widespread bi-partisan support from local governments, environmental groups, businesses and nature lovers.
Voters can cast their votes for Proposal Three on November 7.