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Smart Growth in the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park

View of the Village of Saranac Lake and the Saranac Lake Wild Forest, as seen from Mount Baker

DEC has made a special effort to support smart growth planning activity within the Adirondack and Catskill parks. Smart growth is a renewal of land use patterns that once came naturally in the parks. Hamlets and villages developed as close knit forest communities, clustered around strong commercial centers, surrounded by vast wilderness. These communities were home to working people in the local mining and forestry industries and doubled as service centers for tourists, who were drawn to the regions' pristine natural beauty.

In the 21st century, park communities retain their heritage, a strong sense of place and a powerful connection with nature. The challenges of economic loss and development pressure can threaten the sustainability and unique character of these communities. Located within a patchwork of public and private lands, park communities are presented with challenges and opportunities that can greatly benefit from smart growth.

NYS Smart Growth

Since 2007, the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has contained a line of funding dedicated to supporting smart growth in New York State via a series of competitive grants to municipalities and not-for-profit partner organizations. DEC is responsible for distributing a limited portion of these funds toward smart growth within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. The Department of State (DOS), which has traditionally been responsible for local government planning and development-related assistance, will receive the remainder of these funds for distribution statewide.

Aerial view of a scenic lakefront Adirondack hamlet

Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Program

Program Summary

Smart growth can provide the right balance between development and preservation for Adirondack communities. The Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Program supports planning projects that foster sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability. This can include visioning and long term plans to project-specific strategic planning. The program offers grant funding for counties, towns and villages that need financial or technical assistance to plan successfully for the future.


Funding for this program is provided from the EPF.

Current Status / Previous Grant Awards

DEC anticipates announcing $300,000 for 2014 Adirondack Park Smart Growth Implementation Grants in Spring 2014.

DEC officially awarded $500,000 in planning grants for the 2010 Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Program (see link in the left hand column) in August 2011.

DEC officially awarded $1 million in planning grants for the 2007 Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Grant Program (see link in the left hand column) in March 2008.

See the "Smart Growth Projects" link in the left hand column for updated information on ongoing and completed projects under this program.

Match Requirement

No match required

Program Eligibility Requirements/Restrictions

Applicants must be a county, town, or village located wholly or partially within the Adirondack Park or a not-for-profit organization. Partnerships are encouraged. Projects submitted must be located wholly within the Adirondack Park and must be consistent with the Smart Growth principles outlined in the grant program Request for Applications.

Subject matter examples of plans and implementation projects to improve community resources include but are not limited to:

  • Energy efficiency assessment, local energy management capacity
  • Efficient transportation systems
  • Main streets in villages, hamlets and town centers, including streetscapes, bicycle and pedestrian access, adaptive reuse, and mixed uses
  • Community housing
  • Waterfront access and facilities
  • Environmental resource protection, including watersheds, habitat, wetland protection, clean-up of contaminated sites, and response to climate change
  • Recreation sites and public access improvements, including parks, trails, greenways or blueways
  • Scenic resource protection and improvement including viewsheds and scenic byways
  • Protection and management of open space, farmland and working forests
  • Tourism and marketing, with a focus on resource-, recreation-, ecological- and heritage-based tourism
  • Educational opportunities, including historic and cultural resources, festivals and interpretive systems
  • Project-specific feasibility, design, or market planning
  • Capacity-building activities

Central Catskill Park/Mountains Smart Growth Program

View of downtown Phoenicia, a Catskill main street nestled beneath rolling mountains

Program Summary

The Central Catskill Park/Mountains Smart Growth Program supports the implementation of capital projects that apply smart growth principles along the Route 28 corridor, a primary corridor of the Catskill region. The State, through other programs such as the Department of State's Watershed Planning and Implementation grants, has previously provided funding for comprehensive plans, strategic investment plans, revision of land use regulations, stormwater management plans, and qualified capital improvement projects. This program builds on these and other efforts by offering opportunities for eligible applicants to further enhance historic hamlets within the program area. These hamlets, located within or proximate to the Park, complement the region's protected natural and historic resources, and give the area its special sense of place. The Program seeks to enhance the connection of residents and visitors to the area's exceptional natural resources.


Funding for this program is provided from the EPF.

Current Status / Previous Grant Awards

DEC officially awarded $510,000 for the 2008 Central Catskill Park/Mountains Smart Growth Grant Program in November 2010.

No additional funding is currently available.

Match Requirement

No match required.

Program Eligibility Requirements/Restrictions

Please refer to the original Request for Applications posted at 2008 Central Catskill Park/Mountains Smart Growth Grant Program.

More about Smart Growth in the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park: