State officials are grappling with the possible environmental and economic impacts of the resort, which would include more than six hundred mansions and condos.
One of the major players in the Big Tupper debate is newspaper publisher and editor Dan McClelland. Over the years, his Tupper Lake Free Press has emerged as one of the major boosters of the project.
McClelland himself has taken an active part in the public hearings, openly urging the Adirondack Park Agency to allow the resort to go forward.
His dual role as a journalist and an advocate has sparked criticism from some who view his coverage as biased and unfair.
McClelland sat down with Brian Mann last week to talk about his approach. He said it is challenging balancing two very different missions.
"It's difficult for me. I've never considered myself first a journalist. I consider myself a community promoter, a community leader. I've tried to do things that I thought, in my humble opinion, would be the best for Tupper Lake. I'm not reluctant to editorialize on what I believe in and I think my record speaks for itself. I’ve championed good things. In my coverage of the ACR, most of it has been done editorially. If you looked at the last two or three weeks, I've written all the coverage as an editorial [most recently called a news commentary]. The rest of the coverage of these hearings for the last three or four months have been done as editorials and so I insert my cute little notes or my frustration or my criticism of the project. So I don't think it's been unbalanced in any way. Everyone knows an editorial is opinion.
"This story has been interesting. I've done something for the first time I’ve never done before. Everyday I transcribe the meeting. Everyday I publish it on the website. I've done that for the past three months. Anybody who wants a full explanation of testimony, it's all there for them to judge. The other coverage I've done in my paper has been the editorials. So anyone who wants to know anything about the project vis-à-vis these hearings, its there. And I think I’ve done a great job.
McClelland said the developer’s application answered most of his questions. "Things change in applications. We saw that, that was part of the controversy here. I think if people really want to know, they could spend the time. I'm pleased with what’s presented. Now, are there things that could be improved? Absolutely! I would like to see a provision that Big Tupper [ski area] be kept open in perpetuity. I've asked the planning board to consider that and they have. This is a private benefit thing by private people doing something private to hopefully make a buck. And I applaud them for that.
"I’ve never been more worried about Tupper Lakes economy than I ever have in the past. Right now we have some things going on at Sunmount [Developmental Center] where the resident population is decreasing or at least being made more efficient, perhaps. I worry about jobs here. I've always said that Tupper Lake needs this project because what its going to do is bring three thousand people here on the weekend who aren’t going to Lake Placid and Walmart in Plattsburgh like a lot of our local folks do because of a lack of shopping opportunities here. They are going to stay and live and enjoy this community and many of us are going to profit and improve our lives because of it. That’s why I’m such a 100% supporter of this project. We need something in Tupper Lake."