In divided America, one rural area in northern N.Y. struggles to find common ground

In northern New York, one rural area within the Adirondack Park is finding ways to bridge divides and build community, despite the country’s fractious political climate.

Background: Previously a battleground of conflicting interests, the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park has experienced tensions between urban and rural stakeholders, as well as between environmental and development interests.
* Town councilman Gerry Delaney noted a shared sense of communal responsibility when speaking at a public meeting about local environmental issues.

Navigating through conflict: The new cooperative atmosphere can be traced back to the “Adirondack Wars” of the 1970s, when environmental regulations inspired local backlash and led to occasionally violent confrontations.
* Despite this troubled history, communities within the Park have been quietly working towards compromise and dialogue, with historian Phil Terrie emphasizing the importance of talking rather than yelling at one another.

Importance of leadership: These changes got a significant push in the mid-90s under Republican Governor George Pataki, who aimed to reconcile environmental protection with economic viability.
* Acknowledging both the significant risks of development and the needs of locals, Pataki made controversial plans to invest hundreds of millions in tax dollars in conservation.

Working towards unity: An informal group known as the Common Ground Alliance has been influential in fostering dialogue and trust among different factions within the Park.
* Despite ongoing challenges, including national political polarisation, local leaders like Delaney continue to engage in negotiations to seek compromise, demonstrating a commitment to unity rather than division.

Outcome: The shared efforts have largely been successful, improving the Park’s prosperity and achieving significant land conservation.
* However, the path is still fraught with disagreements, lawsuits, and occasional social media spats, suggesting that the progress remains fragile.

View original article on NPR

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