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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 worked for over a decade to support smart growth planning and implementation 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. Today's challenges, whether economic loss or 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 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

DEC Grant Program Summaries

Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Program

Smart growth can provide the right balance between development and preservation for Adirondack communities. The Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Program supports projects that foster sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability. The program supports planning and implementation of key projects identified as priorities in plans. The program offers grant funding for counties, towns and villages that need financial or technical assistance to plan and grow successfully in the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack Park 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.

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

Catskill Park Community Smart Growth Program

The Catskill Park Community Smart Growth Program supports the implementation of capital projects that apply smart growth principles in communities located wholly or partially within the Catskill Park. The State, through other programs such as the Department of State’s Watershed Planning and Implementation grants and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, 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.

Catskill Park Eligibility Requirements/Restrictions

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

DEC Grant Program Details

The below information is the same for both the Adirondack and Catskill Park grants.

Current Status

The 2019 application period is now open. Visit the 2019 Smart Growth grants webpage for more information.

Funding

Funding is provided from the EPF.

Previous Grant Awards

A list of prior projects, sorted by geographic area, project focus, phase, activity and status is available as a List of Prior Awards (PDF) updated April 2019. Detailed plans and project results may be obtained by contacting DEC.

Match Requirement

No match required.

Program Goals

The overarching goals of the programs include:

  • Support main streets in villages, hamlets and town centers including streetscapes, bicycle, transit and pedestrian access
  • Encourage mixed use and adaptive reuse of underutilized buildings and sites
  • Enhance community housing availability and encourage age-, income- and ethnic-integration
  • Improve waterfront access and facilities
  • Ensure environmental resource protection including watersheds, habitat, and wetland protection
  • Enhance recreation sites and public access including parks, trails, and greenways
  • Protect and manage open space, farmland, working forests and scenic resources
  • Promote and support tourism with a focus on resource-, recreation-, ecological- and heritage-based tourism and educational opportunities, including historic and cultural resources, festivals and interpretive systems
  • Build local capacity to engage in collaborative, public, stakeholder-driven planning processes

Project Examples

Eligible projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing bike-friendly routes and amenities or providing shuttle services
  • Improving main street facades and refurbishing historic properties
  • Providing community-based tourism programs and activities and improving or promoting local/regional museums and theaters
  • Creating new recreational opportunities and developing multi-use trails
  • Installing informational signage and kiosks and enhancing parks and public spaces
  • Beautifying tourism sites and improving visitor centers
  • Providing sidewalks and streetscape enhancements
  • Cleaning up contaminated sites and preparing them for re-use
  • Developing municipal comprehensive plans and updating land use laws
  • Conducting project-specific feasibility, design, market and climate change resiliency planning and energy efficiency assessment and improvement
 
 
 

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

  • 2019 Community Smart Growth Grants - Grant program supporting smart growth oriented community planning initiatives and implementation projects in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks