For the Express
Last weekend I attended the annual conference of the New York State Outdoor Writer’s Association. The event was headquartered in the Holiday Inn in Gloversville, in neighboring Fulton County, and it was close enough to my home for me to drive to the site for various meetings and events rather than stay there. I’ve belonged to NYSOWA since 1979 and that’s the first time the conference was that close.
Over 50 outdoor writers and other media representatives as well as supporting members from throughout the state attended. As is normally the case with NYSOWA gatherings, we were greeted by a cold front and plenty of rain, but that’s become par for the course for us and it came as no surprise.
NYSOWA normally meets twice a year, in May and October, and the formal business meeting is held at the October gathering. The May assembly is reserved for a “safari” in which the participants gather for fishing and or hunting but at which no business is conducted and there is no spouses program. This is strictly a social event.
Both annual conclaves are held at various locations throughout the state, giving the participants an opportunity to visit other places and sample the recreational opportunities that particular area offers. Some NYSOWA members, and spouses, arrived Thursday while others arrived Friday. The agenda included a “meet and greet” session with DEC Commissioner Martens Thursday evening, followed by various hunting, fishing and other outings Friday and Saturday, including a reception showcasing the Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum, the NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame and our annual dinner Saturday evening, at which various Excellence in Craft awards were presented.
The Sunday morning agenda included the formal annual business meeting, following which the attendees departed for their home areas, with some pleasant memories of the conference that they’ll hopefully share with their viewers and readers.
I’ll have more on the conference as column space permits in the coming weeks, but allow me to briefly tell you about Thursday’s VIP reception with Commissioner Martens.
Though he’s been on the job as commissioner a relatively short time, I enjoyed hearing him speak and appreciated his candor and sincere desire to appropriately respond to all the questions presented to him by the attendees. He was forthright and honest, and attempted to answer all the questions that were presented to him, but if he didn’t have an answer he would admit it and then asked the associates and assistants who accompanied him to seek out the answers to those questions and get back to the organization and/or person who posed the question.
I asked him about any plans the DEC might have to develop an ATV trail program and also discussed the fact that a previous governor had plundered over $1 million from a special trail fund a decade or more ago and had “repaid” only a portion of it.
Basically, I wanted to know the status of any trail fund at the present time and whether or not the agency planned to do anything with it, in the form of trail development and maintenance or a similar program that would make ATVing easier for those who choose that as a recreational opportunity.
Commissioner Martens admitted he had no knowledge of any current DEC programs designed for that purpose but that one of his staffers would soon get back to me with answers. I guess I’ll have to wait until that happens before I can report on any response I get to my question. Without going into much detail, he fielded a number of other questions on departmental operations, including transparently in DEC operations, land access and acquisitions, youth hunting and the like. In short, the question and answer session lasted longer than his introductory remarks and I came away with the impression he’ll be more accessible than some of the attendees thought.
Of course, time will tell, but for the moment we felt confident in his desire to do the right thing.