Saturday, August 2, 2014

Commentary: Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks

PrintSeveral months ago I wrote a series of columns on socioeconomic and racial diversity and the Adirondacks. The reception to these columns was even stronger than I expected. Much of it was thoughtful. Some of it was controversial. Some of it was ugly. But in total the columns and the reaction validated my point that for most people diversity in the Adirondacks is an under-the-radar issue even though it is arguably the most important issue facing the future of the park.

Since then the conversation has grown and led to action. Many stakeholders in the park recognize that human diversity – my new descriptor, for indeed the issue is bigger than just racial or socioeconomic problems – is just as important to the Adirondacks as plant and animal diversity is to a healthy Forest Preserve.

The result of the momentum on this issue has been the creation of a symposium, Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks, to be held Saturday, August 16th at SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb. All are encouraged to come: details and registration information are available here.

If you peruse the agenda you will see how broadly the imperative to consider human diversity in the Adirondacks has called people to action. The collection of speakers and panelists is impressive and extremely gratifying to me personally. Most of all it is a manifestation of the fact that this is not a new idea: many people have been thinking about and working hard on diversity in the park for a long time. As educator Paul Hai, Symposium Co-Chair and leader of the Northern Forest Institute said:

“Working to address issues of low-diversity in the Adirondacks is something many of us have been aware of and trying to improve for some time, but what makes this symposium different, and the intent of the planning team behind it, is that the symposium represents the first effort across the Park to bring together in common conversation and effort everyone interested in working on these challenges. Our hope in creating the space to engage in this exploration together is that we will help foster an initiative going forward maximizing our collective efforts, resulting in greater success creating a more welcoming and diverse Park than we could have achieved individually.”

But does this question of diversity really matter? Here’s Dave Mason of Adirondack Futures, who has studied a variety of possible scenarios for the Adirondack Park looking out more than two decades:

“The Forest Preserve exists at the pleasure of New York State voters. The direction of the State’s demographics is starkly at variance with the Park. If this remains the case for years to come, the risk is that the Forest Preserve and the Park could become a largely abandoned, increasingly irrelevant and neglected backwater of the State with fewer residents and visitors than ever. This does not have to be our future, but it could turn out to be the default if we don’t take some steps to address this. “

I think Dave’s right. As we put together this symposium we thought hard about why we were doing it. We encapsulated our thoughts in this, our official statement of purpose and rationale:

In comparison to a rapidly changing New York State the Adirondack region suffers a lack of diversity in both its permanent population and its visitor population. This growing diversity gap represents a bi-directional problem. On the one hand it threatens the well-being of the Adirondack park because a predominantly urban and non-white population may not see the park as relevant and therefore may fail to adequately protect it. On the other hand it affects the well-being of those very populations because they have little opportunity to experience the myriad benefits the park offers.    

The story of this diversity gap is difficult and complex, embodying a long American history of racism, homophobia, economic and social privilege, conflicting cultural values and injustice. To address it in any meaningful way will require a region-wide commitment, beginning with recognition of the problem and a discussion to realize a deeper understanding. From there a strategy to address the gap will require multiple dimensions, ethics, economics, perception, media and social justice among them.

The purpose of this symposium is to explore diversity and the Adirondacks through the multiple perspectives of history, the present and the future in order to recognize and better understand it, to discuss strategies for reducing the diversity gap and finally to forge a regional commitment to actively address diversity issues moving forward for the mutual benefit of the Adirondack Park and the people of New York State.

The linchpin for this is experience, not only morality or philosophy. The Adirondack region as a whole lacks the experience we need to be wise about this. We need to pool our collective experience and hear from voices outside the park as well as within. We need to learn from each other. And so we will.

Some will say that this conversation is unnecessary, nothing more than an exercise in political correctness. Some will claim the Adirondack Park is already welcoming and diverse. Some will even be angry and fearful about such an initiative. The fact that these reactions will occur is not ever going to change. That is life and is part of the nature of diversity itself: to me, diversity in any real sense has never been about some utopian sister and brotherhood, some stereotypical vision of “kumbaya” around a circle. Rather it has been about engaging in an experience of people different than we are – though not any more different than we are to the world at large – and with that, growing in our understanding and in our shared human values, warts, differences and all. My measure of progress for the Adirondacks will never be that voices of challenge, of opposition, of ignorance, selfishness or bigotry disappear. My measure will be the extent to which these voices fade to irrelevance in favor an Adirondack Park that in its human diversity more closely and completely mirrors the human diversity of the world at large.

This is the recipe for an Adirondack Park both that is robustly sustained in the future and that fulfills its ambitions to be an essential gift and example for the future of humanity. Come join the conversation.

Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson has been a lover of the Adirondacks since his family discovered Blue Mountain Lake in 1954 and made it a family summer destination. As the years have passed, his love for unspoiled territory has changed his focus to wilder areas in the Central and Western Adirondacks and the High Peaks.

Pete recently purchased an Adirondack in-holding and writes about his adventures exploring it.

When not in the Adirondacks Pete is a college math teacher, musician and professional stilt walker in Madison, Wisconsin.



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61 Responses

  1. George L says:

    The substantial economic disparity between whites and minorities in America suggests that minorities will not move to an area where the economy is moribund. The key to diversity in the Park – a fine goal – is a strong local economy. Such an economy will not be built on tourism. Yet there is strong resistance among local activists to address the economic growth issue head on. I have yet to read a single article that quantifies the job needs within the Blue Line. Focus groups based on corporate models are not a substitute for hard-nosed political organizing. The failure to pursue the core issue (out of deference to the governor?) dooms all of the other discussions, however important, to irrelevance at best and antagonism at worst.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

    • Joe says:

      Under Cuomo’s economic development regime, the REDCs, our region has gotten more funding than any in the State in gross dollars. And the amount per capita is off-the-charts by comparison to anywhere in the State. The most recent unemployment data (seasonally adjusted) released has Hamilton County topping the list with the lowest unemployment in the State. And recently released report of the State funded economic development strategy project for the Park can be found here: http://www.adirondackstrategies.com/

      Does all this take time, yes. But no one is ducking the jobs issue and to suggest so just means you are not paying attention. To your suggestion about political organizing, I say great, do it, any and all help is welcome. But do it from an informed position.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

      • George L says:

        Joe – I agree with you I need information. That’s why I ask how many jobs are needed within the Blue Line to stabilize the communities. Still no answer.

        Is there a state website that provides information about the economic and employment needs of the Adirondacks?

        I’ll bet there is a state website with a count of loons, male and female, by lake (I like loons).

        It is not meaningful to say that other areas in the state are doing worse economically, receive less state money, have higher unemployment, etc., than the Adirondacks.

        This only shows that the economic malaise is widespread and ill-addressed. It does not mean that things are heading in the right direction, at the right speed, for the Adks, because others are worse off.

        In my view, the state should provide financial incentives for manufacturing to locate in different parts of the Park.

        The state must do much, much more. It won’t unless the people insist.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  2. Bill says:

    Dave Mason says:
    “The Forest Preserve exists at the pleasure of New York State voters. The direction of the State’s demographics is starkly at variance with the Park. If this remains the case for years to come, the risk is that the Forest Preserve and the Park could become a largely abandoned, increasingly irrelevant and neglected backwater of the State with fewer residents and visitors than ever. This does not have to be our future, but it could turn out to be the default if we don’t take some steps to address this. “

    Completely disagree with this doom and gloom assessment. This is an unfounded knee jerk reaction when the real issue with the Park and it’s current year round residents is living wage jobs. Address that first and foremost. The existing year round residents should be priority one yet they seem to be played as second fiddle and largely ignored here. That’s very disconcerting to me. Fix whats broken now, then the rest will fall into place naturally.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    • Bill, do you see the two issues of more living wage jobs and a more diverse Adirondack region as related or unrelated? If so, in what way? I’m curious what you would say.

      As to second fiddles, I think an initiative that is all about people as opposed to the park’s natural resources can hardly be accused of ignoring the welfare of people in the park. The welfare of people both in and out of the park is the point.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

      • Bill says:

        Pete,

        Any jobs that come to the Park and small communities should give preferential treatment to existing residents, even if that means retraining. Any leftover positions or those that need specialized skill can come from the outside to the most qualified individual, regardless of background. Affirmative action should not be part of the equation. Affirmative action = discrimination.

        Go to the the different communities, like Star Lake, Tupper Lake, Piercefield, Saranac Lake and invite the year rounders to this symposium and get their input and opinions. Somehow promote your symposium so all sides are heard….not just one side or a group of like minds.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

        • ethan says:

          Isn’t this website read by many year-round residents? I would call this article “promoting the symposium.” I hope local residents will come and weigh in! I

          Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • Paul says:

          “Any jobs that come to the Park and small communities should give preferential treatment to existing residents, even if that means retraining.”

          Bill, you recommend preferential treatment which is obviously discriminatory.

          Companies should hire whomever they think is best for the position.

          Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  3. S. Simpson says:

    Here in the Washington DC metro national parkland near the Potomac River, poor Hispanic males like to fish the river. Do they have permits? who knows? I never see a ranger patrolling.

    While hiking, I have observed them flagrantly disregarding rules about digging for fishbait on the riverbank (forbidden, but they ignore it); leaving behind broken fishing tackle like tangled fishline and other detritus, which endangers fish in the river; going off-trail despite signage forbidding it, thus creating new “social trails” which millennial non-hispanics are recruited to restore by conservation groups. Poor Hispanics disregard the rules b/c they’re poor, they think they’re entitled.

    There is signage in Spanish and Vietnamese stating the rules for using the park, but these males may be illiterate. The signage warns that river fish are dangerous to eat (chemical poisoning and the like).

    Of course, DEC campgrounds in the Adks are regularly trashed by users up there too, according to comments on the ADKForum. I comment b/c I vacation in the Dacks at said campgrounds.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    • Paul Hai Paul Hai says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, and though of course there are aspect of what you write that may provoke heated debate, an important point for productive conversation is how do we work with underserved communities to help foster the strong sense of stewardship for our natural world you note is lacking in some individuals.

      Obviously, as you note, a lack of sense of stewardship is not the hallmark of any one group or people, so part of our conversation needs to be looking at how to effectively promote and communicate stewardship of our natural resources to all users, regardless of whether that is in metropolitan parks or the Adirondacks.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

    • Hawthorn says:

      Unfortunately, in the Adirondacks the locals are among the worst in terms of respecting the environment and trashing the park. Junk, ATVs, illegal clearing and building, you name it. That’s not to say that visitors don’t also contribute to the problem. But, you can’t blame trash and disrespect for the environment on diversity in the Adks, as there is very little of it to begin with.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

      • Paul says:

        The Adirondack lake I grew up on and own property on was far cleaner and quieter when it didn’t have a public boat launch. Most cars in that lot in the summer have out of state plates. That isn’t locals using the lake. I have two new camps near mine both were “cleared” and built by folks who live out of the area. My guess is the hundred or so trucks and trailers using the Saranac Islands campsites are mostly not “local”. My experience is different than yours. I appreciate you defending non-locals like me but I think you have it wrong in many respects. Sure there are plenty of local litter bugs and there are local folks that “trash” things but that is the exception not the rule.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Paul Hai Paul Hai says:

          Paul,

          This is a conversation where both perspectives can be validated by individual experience, however, I feel strongly the broader perspective Hawthorn offers is correct: disrespect for the environment, is not universally perpetrated by “non-locals,” with locals being paragons of virtue. A perfect example – when I lived in a different part of the park, there was a fabulous, end of the road, trail through the woods, promontory with a killer view of the lake that no one, and I mean no one, knew about but us locals. The amount of trash, broken bottles and other detritus from years of people partying up there was discouraging. Continuing to make this conversation about “us v. them” is neither correct, nor productive.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

          • Paul says:

            Paul, Like I said I have seen similar things. I clean up a lot of stuff near another Adirondack property that I own that is, most likely, left there by “locals”. But again this is an exception rather than a rule when I look with a “wide angle” lens. But I agree it is not us vs them”. That comment perpetuates that idea.

            Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • Paul says:

            Note what he wrote:

            “locals are among the worst in terms of respecting the environment and trashing the park”

            WORST. Nothing universal in that comment.

            Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Let me start with this. I am not opposed to racial or human diversity as such.
    What I would be opposed to is making it a goal. I would also be opposed to trying to prevent diversity.
    What am I suggesting?
    Ask yourself this. Should Mexico, China, India or Africa be more racially diverse?
    Over time, I believe most areas of the world will become more racially diverse. I just don’t see it as a goal.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

    • Outlier says:

      The only people agitating for “diversity” are a small subset of Whites who believe it will atone for past sins and non-whites who want to increase their political power.

      Can anyone point out a functional nation that is “diverse” and that is not held together by some sort of authoritarian rule or does not have extensive unrest, crime etc? Yugoslavia, the USSR, most African nations, Brazil are all examples of multiracial / multicultural nations that are either basket cases or held together by force. Singapore (comprised of ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnic populations) is very clean and efficient. However, it is by no definition a liberal state.

      Switzerland has French, German and Italian populations. But they are concentrated in specific locations and much of the political power is decentralized to the Cantons. Plus they have a common racial and Christian heritage.

      By contrast, the UK, France, Italy and the Nordic countries have had substantial immigration from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I the UK it has been admitted that the immigration policy was to bolster the Labour Party. The consequences are now apparent.

      Instead of devising futile policies to accommodate “diverse” elements of the population, we should immediately close the door to any more coming here, remove those here illegally and change the legal immigration policy to encourage productive, educated citizens. If family reunification is a goal, it should be in their country of origin.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

      • John Warren John Warren says:

        “Can anyone point out a functional nation that is “diverse” and that is not held together by some sort of authoritarian rule or does not have extensive unrest, crime etc?”

        Yes, the U.S.A.

        Tell us your real name – because I’d like to know who qualifies for America in your world.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

        • Outlier says:

          It doesn’t matter WHO I am or WHAT my name is. I made statements that can either be shown to be true or false. Instead, you chose to wrap yourself in the flag.

          How you can claim the US is a functional nation when its infrastructure is crumbling, it can’t control its borders, it engages itself in costly no-win wars, the large cities are bankrupt war zones, the schools can’t educate no matter how much money is spent, the government spies on its own citizens, has engaged in torture and you have to nearly get a colonoscopy board an airplane?

          In other words, just like the nations we get most of our immigrants from. Only we provide financial incentives.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

          • Paul says:

            Yes, like John said the USA. If it was as bad as you claim why didn’t you move away years ago. There has gotta be something better out there. How about Switzerland? I think you might like it doesn’t have any of the stuff you mentioned. It doesn’t have any diversity either but maybe for you that isn’t an issue.

            Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

            • Outlier says:

              Paul, you didn’t get the point of what I was trying to make. There is a trade-off between diversity, freedom and security. You can pick only two of the three.

              Why should I be the one to relocate? I’m not the one telling everyone how to live and expecting others to pay for it.

              Besides, as George Carlin observed, “When you’re born into this world, you’re given a ticket to the freak show. If you’re born in America you get a front row seat.”

              Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

              • Paul says:

                “There is a trade-off between diversity, freedom and security.”

                No there isn’t? This is totally ridiculous.

                Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

                • Outlier says:

                  Actually, I did overstate my case. You can only pick 2 (at most) out of the 3.

                  Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

              • Paul says:

                This is also totally factually inaccurate. US urban areas are gaining in diversity as crime rates have been FALLING dramatically over the last several decades. If there is any correlation it would have to be that a more racially diverse population makes for a more security. You seem to be getting your information from some type of anti-immigration propaganda machine. This isn’t some type of left wing conspiracy. Look at my comments here, I lean pretty far to the right but I cannot deny the facts staring me in the face.

                I lived in Paris France for two years at a time when immigrants from North Africa were pouring into southern France and making their way to places like Paris. I never even had to lock the house boat that I lived on right in the heart of the city. The only real criminals we had to worry about were FRENCH pickpocketers.

                Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

                • Outlier says:

                  Falling crime rates have been attributed to a general decline in 18-30 year olds (who commit a disproportionate share of crime) as well as more aggressive law enforcement. I have not heard of anyone who attributes a decrease in crime to an increase in diversity. I list the crime index from neighborhoodscout.com for the 20 most diverse cities in the US at:

                  http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-diverse-cities-in-the-us-2013-7

                  Here diversity is defined as equal proportions of Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders.

                  City Crime Index (100 is safest)

                  Vallejo CA 6
                  Jersey City NJ 26
                  Suisun City CA 44
                  Oakland CA 1
                  San Leandro CA 11
                  Germantown MD 44
                  Lincoln VA 85
                  Atl. City NJ 2
                  NY NY 22
                  Florin CA 8
                  Springfield VA 65
                  Sacramento CA 8
                  Eastvale CA 29
                  Fairfield CA 19
                  SeaTac WA 3
                  Richmond CA 5
                  Dale City VA 36
                  Gaithersburg MD 52
                  Aspen Hill MD 44
                  Montgomery MD 52

                  The cities in MD and VA undoubtedly benefit from their proximity to Washington DC. The rest are pretty poor.

                  If you have statistics to back your claim please share them.

                  I am pleased that your experience in Paris was not disturbed by Muslims. My experience in Miami in the early 1980’s following the Mariel boatlift was not as pleasant.

                  Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

                  • Paul says:

                    I did not say that an increase in diversity was a “cause” for lower crime rates. You can have correlation without causation. You are providing the stats. Diversity is up and crime is down. Like you speculate it is poverty and not diversity that is responsible for higher crime rates in some areas. I am not advocating for some type of open border I am just pointing out that you have no idea what you are talking about.

                    An increase in diversity will benefit the Adirondacks just like it has in the past. Stop being so afraid. The rest of the world is coming you can’t stop it so you better get along or get out of the way.

                    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

                  • Paul says:

                    Don’t have time to hash too many stats but I was curious what the demographic trends are in for the safest big cities in America.

                    The safest large city in America nine years running is Irvine California:

                    http://www.citiesjournal.com/13-safest-big-cities-in-america/13/

                    In 1980 the population was about 10,000 in 2010 it was over 200,000.

                    In 1980 Non-hispanic whites made up over 80% of the population. In 2010 Non-hispanic whites made up only 45% of the population.

                    So a surge in diversity and still the safest large city in America?? How could this be? Diversity (or a lack of it) has nothing to do with security in Irvine California.

                    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

                    • Outlier says:

                      I have actually lived in Irvine CA for several years. The reason it is safe is that the “non-Hispanic Whites” are Asian professionals, almost all here LEGALLY or foreign students at UC Irvine. There are not many Muslims, Africans or Latin Americans. And NOT a group that has been victimized by “White Privilege.”

                      The cops take an interest in anyone that appears to be a transient and gives him a lift to the edge of town.

                      Closer to the issue at hand, I don’t believe that exclusively attracting more Asian professionals to the Adirondacks is what is being proposed. Too bad, because I’d love to see a decent Thai, Chinese or Japanese restaurant in the Park.

                      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

        • Outlier says:

          Who qualifies for America? It’s spelled out in our immigration laws. You know, the laws that are being IGNORED.

          Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  5. AG says:

    In all seriousness – if you look on a globe as to where what races originate from – you’ll see that most non-whites are not given to live in places with extremely frigid winters. NYC’s economy can attract non-whites – as does Toronto’s… but overall non-whites do not like frigid winters. The only ones who do are Siberian type tribes – which are sparse. The Inuits are also sparse. Even in white countries with rough winters – they are not heavily populated. It’s the weather and the economy – nothing else.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

    • Outlier says:

      Yet we (or rather religious “charities” who get government checks) resettle Somalians in Minnesota and Maine. Once the charities have done their good deed, its up to the local taxpayers to pay the bills.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    • ethan says:

      Not sure where you’re getting that from. There are extensive non-white communities in the northern Midwest. Argentina, Peru, Chile have frigid winters and are populated primarily by non-whites. Japan has cold winters, as does northern China. Nepal, northern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan all populated primarily by non-white populations, all have frigid winters.

      It’s certainly true that people identified in the US as “black” have historically not inhabited colder climates but it’s a ridiculous stretch to say they “do not like them” because of their race. Whites who grow up in the South often have trouble adjusting to Northern winters — it’s a matter of what you’re used to, not your race.

      I’ll tell you what will keep non-whites (and their money and labor) out of the Adirondacks: an attitude they don’t belong, can’t hack it because of their color.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Outlier says:

    “…a predominantly urban and non-white population may not see the park as relevant and therefore may fail to adequately protect it.”

    The idea of the park was conceived and advocated by urban Whites. The 1 percenters of the day.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  7. John W says:

    As I read this article and the comments made I started to think about the Adirondacks and this particular issue.

    Maybe some will disagree but I see it as a large non issue. In my mind, the biggest thing would be what is best to preserve the natural beauty of the Adirondacks? Will any ideas to ” bring diversity” to the region cause environmental harm?

    The person who posted about the issues seen in the Washington DC area are a concern of mine. I work with troubled youth from urban areas and in a rural setting I can see the culture clash. One thing I notice is the concept of the environment. I see a lot of trash and disposable items just tossed aside with no consideration even after verbal reminders. There is an attitude that sometimes you can’t resolve.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  8. John Jongen says:

    Let’s not become too smug about our (ab)use of the environment. I see the issue from the ‘country mouse v.s. city mouse’ framework. People of all stripes and colors have trashed, and continue to trash, our environment. A city mouse will have a harder time to value our wild and rural landscape and forests than a country mouse. Given time and incentives each can learn to adopt the values of the other. Attitudes can change. Even ‘poor Hispanics and Vietnamese’ have learned to fish for the healthier fish in the Potomac, and avoid fishing in DC’s Anacostia River.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  9. Peter Bauer says:

    I plan to attend this conference, but I’m not sure I buy the premise.

    If the conference is about attracting more racially diverse users or residents of the Adirondack Park, that’s one thing, but if it’s about fears of a lack of political support in the future for forever wild and the Adirondack Park from a more racially diverse NYS population I question that proposition.

    I’d be interested in any survey data the organizers are using to support their premise about political support. The agenda doesn’t have any reports about data.

    A look at the NYCO amendment vote saw counties with high minority populations generally voting down the amendment, with a few notable exceptions like Bronx County. Whereas, the NYCO amendment passed widely in counties that were nearly monolithically white. In short, in places like Kings County in Brooklyn, New York’s most racially diverse county, the bogus arguments about NYCO were voted down despite a lop-sided vote-yes campaign.

    In my read of New York’s population projections 71% of the current population is white and this level is projected to drop by 2050 to possibly 50-55%, a major change no doubt.

    The values people hold for Wilderness, and by extension the Adirondack Park, I would argue are more class-based than race-based and even more ideological than class. I note two things here. First, it’s no mistake that in the trajectory of American history environmental protections across the board rose commensurate the rise of the middle class. Second, as the ideological divide in the U.S. has grown, New York has become bluer (we voted for Ronald Reagan twice, but I think those days are over), and I see the state only intensifying its blueness as we racially diversify.

    A more racially diverse New York will likely elect a more racially diverse set of political representatives, who I submit are far more likely to embrace a broader set of environmental protections than we currently see. I see forever wild and the Adirondack Park, as well as the Catskills, as cornerstones of that broader set of environmental protections.

    Look at the racial diversity of the majority coalition of the NYS Senate. They’re 100% white and nearly as hostile, Senator Tony Avella the lone exception, to everything forever wild and the Adirondack Park is all about.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  10. Outlier says:

    The monolithically White counties that voted for NYCO were most likely upstate counties whose economies have been in free-fall since the late 1960’s. It’s absurd to talk about incentives for manufacturing in the Park while businesses (and people) are fleeing NY State, leaving behind much more suitable locations for manufacturing.

    People will care more about the Park if their financial situation is more secure. On the other hand, good luck getting any concern from populations with high rates of out-of-wedlock births or incarceration rates or don’t speak/read English. How many articles on the Park will be featured in the multitude of ethnic newspapers read by immigrants?

    Initially, a “diverse” electorate will enhance a left-liberal political coalition. Eventually, the coalition will require increasing effort and bribes to remain cohesive. Always, they will vote along racial lines as they do even now. These groups have no great love for each other. Whatever one group gets, the others see as a denial of their entitlement. Hispanics in Compton California have almost completely displaced Blacks to the inland desert areas. The city government is still dominated by Blacks and the hispanics are complaining about their representation.

    Based upon past and current experience in cities and counties were “diversity” has prevailed, White Liberals should not expect reciprocity when they are in the minority.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  11. Hawthorn says:

    I question the basic premise of this conference. Personally, I’m not particularly worried about the fate of the Adirondacks, diversity or no diversity. By many measures the economy of the region and the welfare of its inhabitants is at an all time high, along with the protection of its lands.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  12. Paul says:

    The CanAm rugby tournament in Saranac Lake over the weekend sure brought a lot of diversity into the park. Just like it does every summer.

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  13. ethan says:

    Here’s what I perceive in a lot of the comments to this article: a perception that this is a zero-sum game. That attempts to increase Adirondack diversity come at the EXPENSE of the local economy / jobs for current residents. Why would that be the case? I think diversity would lead to increased economic gains for everyone. The more people who want to live / work / vacation in the Adirondacks means greater demand. Each extra dollar that flows into the region from visitors / customers is a dollar that can be spent multiple times by those living there. Why do current residents think that efforts to increase diversity would come at their expense, instead of for their benefit?

    If I owned a business in the Park, and I looked at the region’s demographics, I would be 100% behind this initiative. Every person who comes from a group that currently doesn’t visit the Park is a potential new customer.

    Think about all the one-industry towns across this country that start failing when the factory closes. The NY Times just had an article about Millinocket, ME and its struggles after the paper mill closed. Extend that in a larger sense to the Adirondacks: diversity provides security. If you’ve hitched your economic bandwagon to white people only, you’re less secure, just as those towns that are not dependent on one industry only are more secure than those that are.

    Finally, all the comments to this article have focused on racial diversity; certainly the most prominent and common use of the word. I’d hope this conference and people in general start thinking about larger uses of the word diversity as well.

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    • Joe says:

      Great points Ethan, thanks. Well expressed. I certainly would rather this issue was viewed as an opportunity, not a threat.

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    • Paul says:

      “Why do current residents think that efforts to increase diversity would come at their expense, instead of for their benefit?”

      They don’t feel this way. That is just a few people commenting here. People are afraid of things they don’t understand. You have explained it well. If they don’t get it they are never going to get it.

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  14. Paul says:

    I would be curious to know the demographics of the Ironman competitors and their families. I noticed the top three were:

    South Africa, Columbia, and Hungary

    Events like this certainly help bring a more diverse crowd into the park.

    Now I am not saying that there isn’t a lack of diversity issue (there is) just pointing out that more of these types of events may be part of the solution. We are one of the few places in the world that has played host to the world for the winter olympics twice!

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  15. Peter says:

    A ridiculous concept, really. WHY on earth does it matter ?
    Are there signs along the highways , in each town stating no people of color, allowed ?
    WHO exactly is excluded from coming to the Adirondacks ?
    THIS is exactly why the country is divided as much as it is now. People on the left looooove to stir the pot with asinine columns like this one. I see the author resides in Madison , WI – SURPRISE one of the most leftist towns in AmeriKa !! This is not about making the Adirondacks more “diverse” its ALL about spreading a leftist agenda.

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  16. John Warren John Warren says:

    Readers who know their history know this, but for the benefit of those who seem to be clueless in this department, the Adirondack was segregated until at least the end of World War II (some places much longer).

    African Americans and Jews notably, although it extended to all people of color and in some places Catholics, were barred from many Adirondack hotels and resorts. Pick a town in the Adirondacks, and there is a history, not so long ago – there are people living today who grew to adulthood experiencing it – where racism and segregation was the rule, not the exception.

    Anti-immigrant sentiment was also rampant, notably against those of first Irish, then Italian and Eastern European descent. These are of course, along with African Americans, most of the people who built Adirondack roads and railroads, and worked in the regions mines, hotels, and resorts. Their labor made it possible for middle class white Americans to enjoy the Adirondacks after World War II.

    There were, in fact, signs barring people who were not white American-born protestants. Those generally went away when a more diverse population from America’s cities came north and opened their own resorts, many of which still exist today.

    And yes, this is a liberal plot. Liberals, the people who helped end slavery and win the votes for women, have generally always been concerned that everyone gets a fair shake in the most liberal democracy in the world.

    Nothing to be ashamed of there.

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    • AnotherBill says:

      In Dewey’s day, the Lake Placid Club had signs as you describe in its driveway, no jews, etc. I think this lasted into the 1950s. All the big private clubs had similar rules even if they didn’t have the signs.

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      • John Warren John Warren says:

        There was at least one restaurant in Port Henry in the 1960s which still essentially barred African Americans. Although the signs eventually came down, people of color will tell you, the racists attitudes did not. Even today, any honest person who spends time at a some local pubs, late night, can tell you that African Americans are given the hairy eyeball if they should find their way in. Those are the unfortunate facts. It’s not everywhere, and its not everyone, but it’s still here – in fact, I know of at least one person locally that wears a Klan patch on his leathers.

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        • Outlier says:

          In 2014, who is safer – a White man walking through Detroit or a Black man walking through Lake George?

          A Black man walking through Lake George in 1960 would be safer than walking through 2014 Detroit.

          The Park was created to preserve a remnant of the natural environment. As more land becomes public, the residents and seasonal dwellers will be confined to smaller areas. The region has strict limitations on resource extraction and construction. Many here are upset over even a small land exchange (NYCO). Further, NY State has one of the worst business climates in the nation. When was the last time ANYTHING was built WITHOUT a tax break, subsidy or sweetheart deal?

          Be realistic and recognize that tourism and real estate will remain the mainstays of the Adirondack economy. Tourism jobs generally have low pay. Real estate is hit or miss. Any “manufacturing” is likely to be akin to a cottage industry requiring specialized skills like boat building. Perhaps higher value jobs requiring only an internet connection such as software development, consulting etc. are possible but these are niche professions that are dominated by Whites and Asians. Silicon Valley is Jesse Jackson’s latest target of extortion.

          A Klan patch? Do you think everyone who wears a Giants Jersey plays for the Giants? A hipster wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt a Communist revolutionary? He probably doesn’t even know who Che was or that he did not have a high opinion of Blacks. But the shirt looks cool.

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        • Paul says:

          This is an interesting comment. I hope it isn’t accurate but I am afraid if might be in some respects. Like in many places there are issues to address here.

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        • Will Doolittle says:

          Thank you, John, for addressing a painful truth. North Country towns can be disturbingly narrow-minded, prejudiced places, particularly in the sort of circumstance you describe — a local hangout. That is true in many places, of course, but we’re not talking about many places, we’re talking about this one, and it’s unpleasant.

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  17. Peter says:

    That was a rebuttal, I suppose –but lets try and keep it in the 21st century, shall we ?
    WHERE oh where are the minorities unwelcome in the Adirondacks? Can you actually name one incident and not from 60 years ago? LOL @ U –Why no, you cannot

    As far a liberals , do you mean the demoncats , the party of SLAVERY ? Is that the liberal party you are referring to ?
    I suggest you actually read a history book and learn which party is the party that stood behind slavery and i STILL enslaving people of color in a way. One only needs to look at he unemployment picture and as much as it is still very high, the rate for young black men is only 50%
    Black women – ONLY 23%. Which party is i office now? Why that would be those “liberals”, headed by a black president
    SWISH !!!!

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    • John Warren John Warren says:

      Peter, you embarrass yourself. You don’t know of stories from the 1960s and 1970s because you don’t care to. You don’t use your own name so I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t make your silly claims in the faces of the men and women who lived through those times and have a much different perspective than you.

      Democrats were not liberals in the antebellum period, they were conservatives. Save yourself further embarrassment and learn what liberal means – start with the Enlightenment, the liberal republican revolutions of the 18th and 19th century (including the American Revolution), and the end of slavery and the passage of the 19th amendment. Conservatives opposed all of those movements, just as they opposed the end of property requirements for white men (such as NY’s Rent Wars in the 1840s), the end of Jim Crow Laws (which were created by conservative state legislatures), and the extension of Civil Rights to gay and lesbian people.

      You are obviously also wholly ignorant of the realigning election of 1968, which doesn’t surprise me, since the limit of your concerns apparently extend only to the last 15 years of the 21st century.

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  18. JohnL says:

    Well said Peter. I think John is confused as to which is the party that did the most to end slavery and it’s’ aftermath. Also, the party that promotes dependence does no favors for those dependent on the government. Forced diversity, or at least the kind that people provide via artificial means rarely helps anyone. Just sayin’.

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    • dave says:

      You are confusing party with political ideology.

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      • JohnL says:

        No I’m not Dave. Talking straight POLITICAL parties, the Repubs have done much more to end slavery and it’s’ after effects than that ‘other’ party. The ‘other’ party is the one that has promoted dependence.

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        • dave says:

          The two main political parties of today have swapped ideologies throughout history. So continuing to focus on the labels of ‘Republicans’ and ‘Democrats’ in this context is meaningless.

          Yes, Republicans did do a lot to end slavery. They just happened to be a politically liberal party when they did that.

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  19. Hawthorn says:

    Diversity for its own sake is a laudable goal, but linking it to a “robust sustainable future” is a stretch. Just a couple of thoughts. Yes, the USA is a shining example of how diversity can be a strength economically and in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that undiverse places like Denmark, Finland, or New Zealand are basket cases. And, they also seem to have quite a high regard for the environment too. Personally, I think the future for both diversity and the Adirondacks is bright already. Conferences probably won’t hurt, but I don’t see them changing a relentless demographic shift that is going to happen whether anyone likes it or not.

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  20. @tourpro says:

    Funny how some species are considered “invasive” and others improve “diversity”.

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