History of the Paul Smiths VIC
The Paul Smith’s College VIC (Visitor Interpretive Center) was originally a state-funded facility. In the 1980s, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) began exploring options for creating a visitor interpretive center to provide tourist information, educational programs and exhibits to the public. The goal was to provide a place where local residents and visitors would get to know the natural ecosystems of the six-million acre Adirondack Park. Communities across the Adirondacks vied for consideration as the location of the new VIC, but Paul Smiths was eventually chosen by then-Governor Mario Cuomo, who also designated Newcomb as a satellite facility. The Paul Smiths VIC opened in 1989 and the Newcomb center opened in 1990.
The VIC under New York State Management: For two decades, the two centers served both tourists and local residents, providing a wide range of public programs, including lectures on bear behavior, orienteering classes, maple sugaring outings, and pack basket weaving workshops – many of them free, thanks to state funding. During summers, the centers offered interpretive trail walks, the Junior Naturalists series, astronomy classes, and live birds of prey sessions.
New York State Withdraws Funding from the Visitor Centers: In 2010, then Governor Gov. David Paterson included a proposal to close both the VICs in his executive budget. The Newcomb VIC was eventually transferred to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and became the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC). In January 2011, Paul Smith’s College, which owns the land on which the Paul Smiths VIC building is located, agreed to take over the Paul Smiths center.
The Paul Smiths VIC Reopens under College Management: The VIC was reopened under the auspices of Paul Smith’s College in the summer of 2011. The College contracted with Brian McDonnell, owner of Mac's Canoe Livery in Lake Clear, to manage the center and find ways to make it generate enough revenue to be sustainable. The College has established four guiding principles for its operation of the VIC:
- To connect the VIC with the College’s mission.
- To maintain public access to the trails
- To connect the VIC to the arts
- To find ways for the facility to generate revenue so it can sustain itself.
Many of the programs that made the Paul Smiths VIC popular under state management have continued under Paul Smith’s College management. However, because the VIC is no longer receiving New York State funding, some of the programs that were provided free of charge when the VIC was part of the Adirondack Park Agency can no longer be offered cost free. Access to the extensive trail system is free in the spring, summer and fall months, but skiers and snowshoers who wish to use the trails in winter are asked to purchase trail passes, in part to cover the costs of trail grooming and maintaining a greatly expanded winter trail system. This expanded network is designed to appeal to skiers of all skill levels, as well as to the skate skiers in the area.
The revitalized VIC has also branched out into a wide range of new activities, linking the center more closely to the regional arts community and to the College, and offering meeting and event rental opportunities.
- Adirondack Park Agency. Visitor Interpretive Center web site, 5 March 2005 capture. From the Internet Archive:
- Chris Knight, “Both Adirondack Interpretive Centers to go” North Country Public Radio, 20 January 2010. http://www.northcountrypublicradio.net/news/story/15105/both-adirondack-interpretive-centers-to-go
- Chris Knight, “Paul Smith’s College takes over VIC,” Adirondack Daily Enterprise, 4 January 2011. http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/522221/Paul-Smith-s-College-takes-over-VIC.html
- Jessica Collier, “PSC wants VIC to pay for itself,” Adirondack Daily Enterprise, 26 February 2011. http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/523201/PSC-wants-VIC-to-pay-for-itself.html
- Nora Flaherty, “’New’ Paul Smiths VIC opens with new outlook,” North Country Public Radio, 30 May 2011. http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/17738/20110530/new-paul-smiths-vic-opens-with-new-outlook
- Mike Lynch, “VIC opens under private management for first time,” Adirondack Daily Enterprise, 21 June 2011. http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/525140/VIC-opens-under-private-management-for-first-time.html
- Brian Mann, “Revitalized Paul Smiths VIC debuts in tough winter,” North County Public News, 25 January 2012. http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/19188/20120125/revitalized-paul-smiths-vic-debuts-in-tough-winter