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Adirondacking While Black

Frederick O’Neal spent most of his time in the theater world, cofounding the American Negro Theatre in Harlem, which launched the careers of Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Ruby Dee. His own career included four decades of steady gigs on Broadway, in film, and on television as a character actor. He called Harlem home and rarely, if ever, ventured upstate. So how did this thespian end up being one of the pivotal leaders in saving the Adirondack Park?

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“Forever Wild For All,” New York Archives magazine, Spring 2022

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Full Documentary

Mountain Lake PBS, the presenting station for the documentary based on “A Wild Idea,” has made the film available to the public via YouTube. Remember to hit “full screen” after you click below, because the scenery shots are incredible.

If you like what you see, please sign up below to get a monthly newsletter with new releases, events, and more. Thanks for watching!

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Mountain Lake Journal

On August 6, Brad was interviewed by Thom Hallock, host of “Mountain Lake Journal” on Mountain Lake Public Broadcasting (WCFE-Plattsburgh). Watch the 16-minute interview below.

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Interview by Erin Tobin

On August 5, Brad gave an online presentation to the monthly book club of The Preservation League of New York State. His 30-minute slideshow based on the book begins at 3:50; a lively interview by Erin Tobin, PLNYS’s VP for Policy and Preservation and incoming executive director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, begins at 43:25.

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“What are you working on now?”

On July 17, Brad was interviewed by Pat Bradley, veteran correspondent for WAMC. The 15-minute interview covers the long process of gathering interviews for the book, reactions in the North Country, and Brad’s plans for Volume 2:

https://www.wamc.org/post/brad-edmondson-talks-about-his-book-creation-adirondack-park-agency

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“All Brains and No Heart”

James Hotaling

On July 8, Brad was interviewed online by Jim Hotaling, a planner who began his 30-year career at the Adirondack Park Agency in 1977. Hotaling’s job was persuading local officials to pass zoning plans that met APA standards, despite overwhelming opposition. He succeeded, slowly, by asking locals about their hopes and dreams. He said that for all of its conceptual brilliance, the original plan had a significant flaw because it was “all brains and no heart.”

Several APA alumni and scholars tuned in to the online session, producing an unusually in-depth session. Brad’s comments start at 4:00, and Hotaling’s questions are at 25:45.

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Dick Beamish’s Review

“A Wild Idea is essential reading for anyone interested in how human beings can co-exist in reasonable harmony with our natural world.” From the print edition of Adirondack Explorer:

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“Q: What surprised you the most?”

On June 9, Dr. Robert Chiles interviewed Brad for Northshire Books, then posted the interview on his channel, “Empire State Engagements.” (A: maybe it was the beer refrigerator).

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The story in nine bites

This week I started a nine-part series on the website of Adirondack Explorer magazine that tells the story in 3,000 words. It will run every other weekday until April 16. Here’s the lede from post #1:

On June 5, 1971, two days before the New York State Assembly passed the Adirondack Park Agency Act, a group of environmental activists ran into a group of developers in a hall outside the Assembly chamber.

“We all came together in a head-on collision,” remembered Abbie Verner. “Everyone started bellowing, and at one point I almost hit Red Plumadore over the head with my purse.” Keep reading.

From Ch. 7 of A Wild Idea: How the Environmental Movement Tamed The Adirondacks (published May 2021)

The project is based on 50 oral history interviews I did over the last 18 years. The book is based on those interviews, and I will also release highlights from the audio and video as we prepare a one-hour PBS documentary for the fall. Here’s the first video clip:

Watch this space for news and notices about events we’re planning in 2021. You can also sign up here for automatic email notifications:

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About This Site

New York’s Adirondack Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Great Smokies National Parks combined. It also might be the world’s best protected wilderness, even though 85 million people live within a day’s drive. How did that happen?

I wanted to know, so I spent years talking to the people who fought for and against the Park’s 50-year-old land-use plan. What they told me was so dramatic and surprising that I had to write A Wild Idea.

The book is an 18-year labor of love. I collected dozens of interviews and hundreds of photographs and documents. The material is so good that it was impossible to stop. When I finished the book, I had a lot of fascinating stuff left over, and that is the reason for this website. Share your email to get updates and find out about events that will commemorate the APA’s 50th anniversary.

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