- December 3, 1929 – JSA to John G. Agar (President – Assn. for the Protection of the Adirondacks) –
My dear Mr. Agar:
My attention has been called to an article appearing in our local paper regarding the excellent work that you and your Association are doing to preserve the strength of Article7, Section 7, and all it means to the New York Forest Preserve. There have been so many attacks on this Article, and so much history in its support, that it is surprising that the question is brought up for further discussion as to the original intent of that [?]. Yu will, no doubt, recall the Convention of 1915. I personally attended most of the public hearings and many of the meetings, and I do not recall that even the most violent objectors to this provision in the Constitution ever questioned the intent to keep the wild features of the Forest Preserve in their original state, and the Committee after months of discussion, recommended that this part of the Constitution be retained.
This present attack has elements of commendation, no doubt, and many of the advocates may only see the local effect and not the injury that would follow throughout the Forest Preserve by weakening this provision in the Constitution. The commercial crowd, however, have nothing to lose by this contest, and if they get a favorable decision they have much to gain. If the plain wording of the Article is sustained, they will claim that this is another proof that the Constitution is too hide-bound and therefore should be amended to afford such privileges.
I am writing primarily to suggest that wide publicity be given to the fact that half the Adirondack public park is still privately owned and therefore the privately owned land throughout the park is ample for carrying on all legitimate and needful purposes without taking away from the people any part of their playground. This simple reasoning appeals to more people with whom I talk and while this is no new thought, I suggest it be reiterated frequently for educational purposes.
I might mention the important distinction of allowing certain things to happen by tolerance, rather than by legislation. This was developed in our discussions in 1915. For example, it was recognized that the campers did take, remove and destroy small quantities of down and dead timber for camping purposes. Strictly speaking, this was considered a violation of the Constitution, but from the practical working out and effect on the forest, it was a benefit in that it assisted the public to enjoy the park and actually reduced the fire hazard, and it was considered wise to allow this latitude by tolerance rather than attempt to word the constitution to legalize such acts, thereby endangering other features by complicating the wording. It seems clear that should the court decide that trees [?] an act of the Legislature or the Conservation Commission for such a commendable a purpose as a toboggan slide, there will be no end to such enterprises in all parts of the Preserve, and it seems imperative that the authority to destroy any part of the Forest Preserve be kept in the hands of the people at large and not in a branch of the government that might be chancing personnel from time to time, or have undue influence brought to bear on it at the eleventh hour.
In view of the history and clear wording of Article &, Section 7, and the fc=act that at least one of the judges of the Appellate Division was a member of the old Constitutional Convention of 1894, it seems reasonable to expect a favorable decision, but should this body confirm the claim that the Legislature has authority to authorize [?] the erection of artificial structures in the Forest Preserve, I sincerely hope that your organization will carry the case to the Court of Appeals and solicit all outdoor organizations to give full publicity to the fundamental points in question.
Assuring you of my personal appreciation for the work you and your association are doing in this connection, I remain