DEC Unveils New Exhibit Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Adirondack Park

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DEC Unveils New Exhibit Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Adirondack Park

Exhibit Features Rare Adirondack Artifacts and “Blue Line” Maps of Adirondack and Catskills Parks

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today unveiled a new exhibit featuring rare Adirondack and Catskills artifacts, including historic maps, antique survey equipment, field notebooks, and photographs that tell the story of creation of the Adirondack and Catskill parks. The Birth of the “Blue Line” exhibit illustrates the vision, foresight, and toil that led to creation of the Forest Preserve 125 years ago.

“The Adirondacks were once threatened by excessive logging and deforestation,” Commissioner Seggos said. “It took the dedicated efforts of conservationists, local residents, land managers, and concerned New Yorkers to protect these vital lands and waters. Visiting the Birth of the “Blue Line” exhibit is a great way to learn more about these magnificent lands, residents and their rich history. Today, Governor Cuomo and DEC are committed to preserving the resources and character of the Adirondacks while creating new opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy one of our nation’s most beautiful places.”

Noted land surveyor Verplanck Colvin raised the alarm about threats to Adirondack resources as early as 1868. In 1884, a state forest commission created a detailed map of remaining timber resources in northern New York. An 1891 map includes an outline of a proposed Adirondack Park, delineated by a line drawn in blue ink. This is considered by historians to be the first map of the park.

Over time, the term “blue line” was understood to represent the actual boundary of the Adirondack Park. On May 20, 1892, New York Governor Roswell P. Flower signed a law creating a 2.8 million-acre Adirondack Park. Today, the park offers an array of outdoor recreation opportunities, including more than 1,800 miles of trails and myriad camping spots.

For more than 125 years, the forest commission’s original maps were kept in DEC files, some originally folded inside 19th Century reports to the New York State Legislature. However, over time the 130-year-old paper maps became brittle. DEC worked with the New York State Library to professionally scan the maps and make replicas for public display. Digital scans of the maps (link leaves DEC’s website) can be viewed at the library’s online collections.

At today’s event, Commissioner Seggos showcased four historic maps, now on permanent display at DEC’s main office at 625 Broadway, Albany. Three maps show how the Adirondack Park boundary evolved in the late 1800s, and a 1911 map that shows the placement of the “blue line” around the Catskill Park.

In addition to the maps, a glass-encased exhibit in the building’s foyer displays antique surveying equipment made by Gurley Equipment Company in Troy, NY, and photographs of Verplanck Colvin and his survey crew. Some of Colvin’s own field log books survive to this day, as do hand-drawn maps of significant physiographic features and progress reports showing triangulation methods to determine exact locations of mountain peaks.

Senator Joe Griffo said, “For those of us who are only a short drive from the Adirondacks, it can be very easy to forget how fortunate we are to be surrounded by such natural splendor in mountains and forests, water and wildlife. But as we celebrate the past 125 years of the Adirondack Park, this new exhibit detailing the park’s history will help ensure that we never take for granted all that it took to protect and preserve the natural resources and beauty that continue to make the Adirondacks such an attractive destination.”

Senator Betty Little said, “Preservation of the original maps and displayed copies, as well as digital scans provide original Adirondack Park blue line history to all. This was a valuable historical project and I thank DEC and the State Library for their efforts.”

Senator Tom O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “What a milestone for one of America’s absolute natural treasures and a testament to New York State’s longstanding leadership in conservation.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said, “The Adirondack Park is a remarkable natural and cultural treasure. The beauty of the Forest Preserve is unmatched and I am grateful to those who had the foresight to protect it 125 years ago. I am proud of the work that New York continues to do to protect the park’s character and resources so that it will endure into the future.”

Assemblyman Dan Stec said, “As we celebrate this milestone, we must continue to work towards maintaining a balance of providing economic development opportunities along with protecting the natural resources that will afford the residents and visitors the opportunity to continue to enjoy the exceptional beauty of this park for generations to come.”

The protection of the Adirondack Park and its vital hamlets remain a State priority. Over the years, DEC has taken action to curtail the impacts of acid rain, prevent erosion on trails, fight the spread of invasive species, conserve open space, and decrease emissions and discharges that impact air and water quality, and fish and wildlife. In addition, Governor Cuomo has been instrumental in building a stronger regional economy, helping communities capture and expand economic development opportunities.

The Adirondack Park is America’s largest, oldest and most storied state park. Encompassing six million acres, it is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Cannon and Great Smokey Mountain National Parks combined, and is home to unparalleled wilds, with 46 peaks over 4,000 feet, thousands of lakes and 1,181 miles of rivers classified under the Wild, Scenic, Recreational Rivers System and thousands of additional miles of unclassified rivers and streams. The Park is also home to 120 hamlets and communities with a population of 130,000 year-round residents and over 200,000 seasonal residents, making it unique internationally.

As part of the DEC exhibit, more information on the display, including printed brochure, is available on DEC’s website. For more information on the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve, including a full color Park Map and Guide and more information on the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve, including a full color Park Map and Guide, visit DEC’s website.

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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor * Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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