Saturday, February 1, 2014

Diversity and the Adirondacks: A Demographic Stasis

Lyman Epps SeniorOver the last few weeks I have been making an argument that socioeconomic and racial diversity is a primary challenge facing the Adirondacks.  The core of the argument is that the Adirondack region is becoming ever-more sequestered racially as the rest of New York State rapidly moves towards a non-white majority and this poses problems for the future of the park.  This sequestration cuts both ways – the Adirondacks lose and an evolving population that does not have a relevant connection to the park loses too.

So far my argument has been rooted in experience, raising questions of equity and social justice along the way.  Proceeding from this experience I would contend that the my core argument is true prima facie – that is it is obvious to anyone with open eyes and a little breadth of experience in the world.

Among the many comments made so far there have been a few outliers who are evidently hostile to promoting increased diversity.  However their comments have been far enough beyond the pale (“if we allow more diverse populations in the park we’ll be inundated with garbage and crime”…. that sort of thing) that I feel safe in proceeding towards questions of how rather than whether.

To begin moving to matters of how we improve diversity, it is time to back my argument with some demographics that further illustrate the problem.  My basic theme here is that the most relevant demographics show the region is in a relative demographic stasis – the leading trends we see elsewhere in communities undergoing diversification are not happening here.   This is a potentially valuable observation because it might suggest strategies for moving forward.

First, here is the 2010 US Census data for Essex and Hamilton Counties compared to New York State as a whole:

Essex County

Hamilton County

NY State









Native American




Asian/Pacific Islander








Per capita Income $          25,964 $          28,935 $          32,104
Poverty Level





As will be no surprise, these Adirondack counties have less poverty than the state as a whole and significantly less diversity.   The white population in the state is a little more than half the total population, whereas Adirondack counties have white populations in the ninety-percent bracket.

I am familiar with this kind of ethnic and racial disparity because the Wisconsin county in which I live, Dane County, has traditionally been just about as white as Adirondack counties.    Here’s Dane County in the year 2000 (also from US Census Bureau data):

Dane County






Native American


Asian/Pacific Islander





Those percentages are not all that different from Essex and Hamilton Counties.  But in Dane County things have been changing,  as they have in much of the nation.  Here are Dane County’s 2010 census figures:

Dane County






Native American


Asian/Pacific Islander





This is a marked change for a ten year period.  The crucial question for us is what’s driving it?  As is the case everywhere the change is coming from children.  The schools are harbingers of this shift to a more diverse population; their numbers show the trends strongly.  For example, compare Dane County’s population figures above with its school statistics, also from 2010:

Dane Schools






Native American


Asian/Pacific Islander





In Dane County the schools are quite a bit more diverse than the population as a whole. The change in school population is driving the change in county population.  In Madison, where I live, the population is still more than three-quarters white but the schools have a non-white majority.

What is so welcome about this is the fact that these younger generations are the seat of attitudinal changes in embracing diversity as well.  Diverse population percentages are growing in the very population segment – young people – that is most embracing of diversity in the first place.

But this is not the case in the Adirondacks.  Here is the comparison of Essex County’s population and its school population:

Essex County

    Essex       Schools









Native American



Asian/Pacific Islander







Here’s Hamilton County:

Hamilton County

      Hamilton     Schools









Native American



Asian/Pacific Islander







Yes, you’re reading the numbers right: unlike trends in Dane and many other counties across the country, Essex and Hamilton County schools are actually less diverse than the county populations themselves.  The youthful harbingers of diversity change are absent in the Adirondacks (in the interest of not burying you in data I’ll simply stipulate that that other Adirondack counties show the same story).  This is the demographic stasis to which I refer.

Of all the numbers I could present, I think these are the ones that should concern you the most.  Absent the kinds of changes we see in younger populations elsewhere in America, the Adirondacks run the risk of ossifying, of becoming ever more sequestered.

There is good news: at least we know one place to start.  Some school districts in the Adirondacks are already working actively on the problem.  That’s good, because any strategy to increase diversity in the Adirondacks must take schools into account.

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Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

75 Responses

  1. George L. says:

    Granting the many benefits of diversity, do you see a solution to the demographics without a solution to the economics?

  2. Pete Nelson says:

    My opinion? Short Answer? No. The are inextricably intertwined and progress on one surely measures a benefit in the other as well.

    George, that is an excellent question, sir. Readers? discuss! What do you think?

  3. Outlier says:

    First, can you spell out the supposed benefits of diversity? Or are they supposed to be self evident? How do you know when you’ve reached sufficient diversity?

    How do you propose to address this lack of diversity? Some sort of homesteading program? Section 8 vouchers? Offer the Park as a refugee resettlement site? Tax credits for residents to adopt racial minorities? (I’d better stop here since I don’t want to give you any more ideas, but I am sure you can conceive of some winners)

    Who besides some white-guilt liberals are concerned about this?

    I think your concern for the impact of changing racial demographics on future of the Park is warranted, but not in the way you think. The state’s deteriorating financial condition is the primary threat to political support for the Park. The changing racial demographics are not likely to improve state coffers.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      I’ve made the argument over several columns. Today I have presented some strongly indicative numbers. In that context what do you think of Outlier’s comments, especially the “Who besides some white-guilt liberals are concerned about this?”

      What do you think? I’d love to see some responses to this.

      • Outlier says:

        With all due respect, your arguments have been directed at promoting diversity as a way to secure the future of the Park. What are the benefits of diversity per se? We hear that “diversity is our greatest strength” but why? Functional diversity I can understand. Racial, ethnic and religious diversity, especially when artificially imposed is a recipe for conflict. Has religious diversity helped Northern Ireland or the Middle East? Has ethnic diversity helped the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet republics or China? You can even argue that the European settlers brought diversity to North America. The Native Americans didn’t exactly welcome this diversity (unless they wanted weapons or help in wiping out their tribal rivals).

        In order to promote any significant racial, ethnic or socioeconomic diversity it is likely that considerable economic transfer payments and unpopular laws will be required. The resulting conflict will eclipse any debate or actions that could truly help the Park.

        • adkmike says:

          Here are 2 recent articles about Vermont related to this.

          This is is a 25yr look back on how some 6500 refugees are doing there:

          This one is about a very successful effort to attract immigrant money to build a huge resort project in far northern Vermont. These are called EB-5 programs.

          Vermont is not NYS but it is food for thought.

          • Dave Mason says:


            These articles make the point that not all foreigners are refugees.

            Some are wealthy who just want to move to the US via the EB-5 program. Surely we can welcome them. They’re certainly not about “considerable economic transfer payments and unpopular laws” as you suggest. Far from it.

            And the poor refugees portrayed sounded educated and hard working for the most part.

            So I guess I don’t buy your argument. They could bring a lot to the region, but we have to make them feel welcome.

          • Outlier says:

            Why are we bringing in refugees (and this is done at taxpayer expense) when we have so much unemployment? How does this help someone who is currently unemployed?

            These refugees often need public assistance long after the refugee resettlement organization’s contracts (often religious groups that get government funding) run out.

            For every “success” you can point to, you will find numerous failures here:


        • Joe says:

          The best argument for diversity is the United States of America, the richest, strongest, most dynamic country the world has ever known. Sure, we have our problems, some of them huge, but diversity is one of our great strengths. Even though the process has often been painful, our society has managed to meld together many different peoples. Those Native Americans helped us win the war in the Pacific because the Japanese could not break the Indian code talkers language. We’ve got many of the world’s greatest universities, and one reason is because we have welcomed diverse people from all over the world with lots of great ideas. Many high-tech companies are hiring Indians, Asians, and Eastern Europeans because they go where they can get the best brains.

          • Outlier says:

            Depending on who you ask, you will often get an opinion that the US peaked anywhere from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. I can’t imagine anyone saying the quality of life in the US from the 1990’s onward has improved, even considering technological improvements. Our condition at any time reflects the policies that were enacted a generation or two previous. To the extent that immigration played a part in this, it was when immigration was limited to Europeans.

            I agree that an argument can be made for limited immigration of highly skilled people. But since the changes to the immigration laws in the 1960’s, the subsequent wars (where we get our butt handed to us and go home with a bunch of refugees) and the 1986 amnesty, we are importing poverty.

  4. adkmike says:


    This is a link to an old article, but it is about how prisoners are counted in census data

    For US Census data, prisoners are counted where they are incarcerated. But they are backed out of the data for local government and reapportionment purposes. It was a controversy during 2010 reapportionment. Still here’s the thing….

    In Essex Cty, the article says, roughly 6% of the population resides in prisons. That is why Essex Cty appears more diverse than Hamilton. Also, prisoners don’t have children in schools making the school comparison look odd. I don’t think there are any prisons in Hamilton Cty, except maybe a county jail, but I’m not sure.

    The large number of prisoners in Essex Cty skews the data some. This doesn’t change your article’s points, but it accounts for the different between Essex and Hamilton and I thought it would be useful to point out.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      You just know somebody is going to say “See! We’re making the North country more diverse!”

      In seriousness, good contribution. Sobering.

      • adkmike says:

        Correct, I didn’t want people to be confused. 6% is a pretty large chunk of a small population and it can do odd things to the data.

    • adkmike says:

      BTW this might also skew the per capita income data.

  5. Joe says:

    Jobs, jobs, jobs, and schools, schools, schools. To raise a family you need a good job, and most families try to get that good job in a place with good schools. NY actually does support a much better school system than many states, and I have lived all over the East. Here’s the thing. I don’t see a solution to the jobs problem. As the world becomes ever-more urbanized that’s also where all the jobs are. There are distinct and measureable synergies for businesses to be close to one another. A place like the Adirondacks can never provide that. Sure, there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to create small businesses or be self-employed, and we can nurture those, but they simply won’t provide lots of jobs. I think the only realistic economy for the Adirondacks is the tourist economy, which we already do quite well at and does employ a significant number of people. The problem there is that most of the jobs are low-wage and a lot of them are very seasonal.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Good comment: this ties to George’s question in the first comment.

      Just to respond to one of your dimensions, Joe, I think there are also distinct and measurable synergies for businesses to be able to effectively have remote employees. In fact remote work is a rapidly growing sector reflecting changing lifestyle and social values and increased mobility. The Adirondacks have a lot to offer to remote workers.

      But they need to offer more to non-white workers as this work continues.

      • Joe says:

        I work for a company and in an industry that is open to remote employees, but even here they find that there is a limit to how far they can go. We have remote employees all over the world, but it is a small fraction of the total workforce. The bulk of available jobs simply require people to be able to meet, look at things together, discuss, and even “gasp” physically handle things. Yahoo recently recalled many remote workers because they felt it was inefficient. Many remote workers are required to come into the office once a week, or once a month or so, and if the jobs are in Florida, Texas, or California the Adirondacks is not the best location to be. I myself do believe that there is a much larger future in remote work, and many companies are not taking advantage of its benefits, but it will always be a small fraction of available work.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          I’ve done some futures forecasting on this. You may be right, it is hard to say. But I think it may be more than you think, driven by technology (as so much business evolution is) that changes the paradigm for “remote.” Augmented reality is not here yet in any huge way, but it’s coming.

        • Joe says:

          All we need is small fraction

  6. Pete Klein says:

    Here is a more sobering thought.
    If we can’t get whites to move here and we have a hard time getting the whites to stay here, how in the hell are we going to get any non-whites to move or stay here?
    In the short run, we might make an effort to attract non-whites to at least pay us a visit.
    In terms of the schools, I am aware of some schools thinking of adding children from the the cities (read blacks and Hispanics) to the mix of trying to attract foreign students as a way to fight declining enrollments.
    Huston, we do have a problem!

  7. BandannaMan says:

    Why is the discussion of diversity limited to race? Why not include liberal versus conservative values? Isn’t that even more important to the region?

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Your first question is a good one. I think the discussion shouldn’t be limited to race. In fact I think it simply can’t be limited to race. I merely point out that that racial demographics are emblematic of all sorts of issues and inequities. Per my previous columns, we have an obligation to remember that.

  8. John Jongen says:

    Some adk camps already hire seasonal workers from countries like Romania. From conversations with some of them they told me that they love their learning experience. As a first-generation immigrant from Netherlands I can attest to the attraction the adk holds for hard-working, outdoor-loving non-natives. Perhaps adk can provide meaningful opportunities to attract refugees from war-ravaged regions of the world. It would seem that if the Amish can restore defunct farms and farmlands to vitality, adk communities can too. It’s just smart resettlement policy.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      A great idea and good contribution to the discussion!

      I hope someone with more expertise in refugee work than me will weigh in on this.

      Being Dutch, I say to you dankuwel.

  9. Dave Mason says:

    We raised this issue in the ADK Futures scenarios. When we asked people to review drafts of the endstates, someone asked us, wisely, to write a failure scenario.

    One of the most direct routes to the failure of the whole idea of Art 14 and the Park is simply waning interest in it. It is an uncomfortable topic. Failure always is.

    Today the Park is largely the province of rural residents and a segment of city-based, recreational and seasonal people who are mostly white and older. Environmental advocates for the Park are the same: white and older. Environmental issues are shifting focus to climate change which does grab interest of city people. They easily point out rural living is a high carbon life, city life is more green and they’re right.

    But the non-white angle doesn’t capture the whole picture of the failure scenario. Think about dis-interested youth and the rainbow of city people who just don’t think about the region, don’t come here, are not interested, are not comfortable outside the cities. They think we host the prison system, if they think about us at all.

    I will use Paul Hai’s word ‘relevance’. If we don’t make the region relevant to the lives of more city people, more young people (they’re leaving for the city and jobs), then, at some point during some financial crises of the future the Park could loose it’s famous protections. They may find allies in the anti-Park voices within the region. It is not that hard to change the Constitution. It takes three years.

    It isn’t sure thing, but it is a scenario where the Park as we know it today fades. So it it worth thinking about. Outlier’s post, along with others above, point to various courses of action. This is not an impossible thing to address. But it is like the frog in a slowly warming pot of water. Demographics and economics sneak up on you slowly and then, suddenly, elections are lost and, fairly quickly, its over.

    So that is the scenario. Is it highly likely, no. Is it possible, yes.

    • Outlier says:

      My proposed “remedies” were proposed as sarcasm. The fact that they would even be considered as credible policies is astounding and shows how far out of touch with reality many are.

  10. Caveat M. Tor says:

    This is a very broad topic with a great deal of long-term relevance for the future of the ‘Dacks.

    One contributing factor to the demographic problem is the dominant parochial attitude of long-term residents. More urbanized areas offer a much greater diversity of social, cultural, political, educational, etc. opportunities. We moved into the park from another state just four years ago, happy to make the tradeoffs implicit in this lifestyle. Since we didn’t grow up here, and didn’t raise our kids here, we’ll never be insiders, no matter how supportive we may be of community groups.

    In essence, those outsiders who choose, and manage, to move here from distant areas, and make a lifestyle and financial commitment to this area, are always a notch below those who are here simply because their families have been here for generations and they lack the self-determination to move anywhere else.

    Consider the pitches made by those running for local political offices. Their first qualification is invariably that they attended the local schools, or at least that their kids attend (or attended) the local schools. Other qualifications, such as relevant higher education, training and experience, count for little or nothing.

    This is a characteristic, in general, of rural America. It doesn’t help attract a diverse population, with diverse backgrounds, attitudes, interests, and skills, from other areas. This self-perpetuating insularity does not bode well for the future of towns and hamlets within the park.

    • Outlier says:

      Try running for public office in a minority-majority inner city. Let us know how welcomed you are.

  11. George L says:

    Relevance is an odd term to describe the absence of jobs. The word relevance is so off base that it must have chosen because it is meaningless.

    Why would a financial crisis lead to the loss of protections for the Park? What is the reasoning?

    How many more city tourists would it take to create a viable economy? You mean if more people came to watch the leaves turn, the lack of good jobs would be solved?

    Dave Mason, it’s not failure that’s an uncomfortable topic. It’s how badly our elected representatives govern. Mr. Cuomo throws a few million at Saranac Lake, and it’s a love fest. Who speaks truth to power?

    Would someone please calculate how many good jobs the Adks needs, and demand that state government do what it takes to create these jobs.

    Instead, we have grown men self-righteously flying around the world, demanding that poor people reduce their carbon useage. Why don’t these same spokesman demand a New Deal for the Adirondacks? The answer is not pretty.

    The Adk’s depressed economy is a political problem with a political solution. That solution is not to be found in the views of local focus groups who imagine the future, or in the global warming debate, but in the action (or inaction) of our political leadership.

    If Albany can’t figure out how to help out, it should go into another business.

    • Joe says:

      Ok, I’ll bite – What is the New Deal solution to the region’s economy that our political leaders should champion? Please describe. Albany is reading. What should the State do?

      • George L. says:

        A few examples:

        The State and its authorities could require that a certain number of municipal mass transit vehicles/trains, etc. which it purchases, be produced in the northwest Adirondacks, and provide economic incentives to make that happen.

        The State could modernize the railroad, to give the Adks local mass transit.

        The State could provide incentives for the manufacture of 21st century modular housing within the Park, and ship the product out by railroad.

        The State could subsidize and promote a 21st century Cure industry.

        If Albany can create a prison-based economy in some Adk towns, it can create a non-prison based economy.

        Joe, this kind of approach woukld help a lot of folks …

        • Joe says:

          On the subject of mass transit, the State does help out Bombardier in Plattsburgh. It make all the subway cars for NYC, Chicago and San Francisco at their plant there.

          Counties pay for bus systems that almost no on uses.

          Modular housing might be interesting but does not need a railroad.

          A cure industry might be interesting, please elaborate….

    • Outlier says:

      The state of NY is an economic basket case. They still think it’s 1948 and they are “The Empire State.” They don’t realize that the south and the southwest now have electricity. The interstate highway system, air travel and the internet have made living and doing business in other locations with better weather and business climates more attractive.

      Can anyone point out an example of a significant business retention or expansion in NY state that was done WITHOUT tax credits or other special considerations by the state or local governments? To a rational person, that would be a clue that maybe, perhaps the taxes are too high, the energy costs extortive and the regulations too burdensome.

      California, despite it’s advantages in high tech, great climate also has to learn this lesson. They have to subsidize motion picture production to keep it in the state.

      I suspect that NYS is extremely dependent on tax revenue from the financial sector (Wall Street) and the people who work in that industry. That will go away when the financial bubble we are in collapses.

      People are far more inclines to be concerned with the environment when they have jobs and are allowed to save and build a sense of financial security.

      Instead of trying to make the Park some sort of racially diverse suburbia, why not maintain current Park protections and allow the regions outside the Park to more freely develop economically? It’s better for the Park and the state in the long run.

  12. Craig says:

    I tolerated the previous articles referencing Chicago and Detroit inner-cities and the meritless points he was trying to make but this interloping author continues to peddle his leftist utopian views and vision, and by way of his articles tries to impose and “shame” them on us and I have had it.

    I am canceling my subscription to the Adirondack Explorer and discontinuing the Adirondack Almanac daily newsletter.

    They will never see another dime from me or my estate and I will contact my lawyer’s at Smith and Simon Monday morning to make the necessary changes. I can leave it to other Adirondack causes that focus on the Park and not some social experiment that has failed miserably in all those places he points to.

    This publication has lost its focus and forgotten its core mission and has become a tool of left wing out of state college faculty. Let them endow your future endeavors.

    • Joe says:

      What is the core mission of this publication? Or the Explorer? John, fill us in on this? I’m not sure I know it.

      • John Warren says:

        Hi Joe,

        The Almanack never really had a mission per se, other than my own personal vision to foster discussion about the Adirondacks and present views about that region that are not found in local or regional media.

        When the Almanack partnered with Adirondack Explorer two years ago, the Almanack took on the stated mission of the Explorer as a publication “devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.” I think that’s a fair assessment of the approach of the Almanack.

        Craig is obviously a new Almanack reader who doesn’t understand that the Almanack is a tool for discussion, that there is no oversight of the Almanack editorially by anyone but me, and that there are more than 30 regular contributors.

        I think in this series of posts Pete has offered an interesting opportunity for people who love the Adirondacks (the only thing that all Almanack readers can agree on), to consider and discuss the difficult issue of diversity. Anyone who has read Pete’s dispatches over the past two years, knows that he often brings a different approach based on his long and unique experience with this place (and others). Those are the kinds of writers we need for the Almanack: new ideas, new visions, and differing experiences.

        There will always be a few who are not up to an open dialogue about difficult issues. They usually, as I’m sure you’re aware, express themselves poorly in anonymous comments.

        Such as it is. Next month the Almanack celebrates its ninth year. 35,000 unique visitors read the Almanack last month (110,000 pageviews).

        You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

        John Warren
        Founder, Editor

        • Joe2 says:

          Here here! You do a great job at presenting a venue for open and intelligent (usually) dialogue. Unfortunately, there are some that closed their minds decades ago and refuse to view new evidence and facts. The good news is the facts have a notorious liberal bias.

          • Outlier says:

            “The good news is the facts have a notorious liberal bias.”

            Until you remove your rose-colored glasses and the drugs wear off.

    • Outlier says:

      Craig, I strongly hope you reconsider your decision. Adirondack Explorer is only providing a forum and they have not (so far) censored any opposing voices. As an outdoor centered magazine, they are likely to have a leftist slant. Sadly, the “conservatives” are much more interested in toiling for their corporate masters and have left the field to the Left. Yet, their corporate masters have no trouble underwriting many Leftists causes.

      Craig, we desperately need your voice of reason here.

  13. Bob Meyer says:

    WOW! there are some very interesting questions and suggestions here, along with Outlier’s clear agenda; nothing “liberal” has any validity. I hear much fear [of change] from this person.
    The statistics speak for themselves. attitudes about ‘other folks”; those not like ourselves and economics are ultimately inseparable.
    i look forward to more posts from Pete and the many constructive responses.

    • Outlier says:

      Isn’t Pete Nelson’s concern for the future of the Park based on changing demographics a “fear of change”? Change is either good or bad. To fear bad change is not illogical, particularly if it motivates a sense of urgency to avoid or mitigate the problem. Pete has identified the changing demographics as putting future support for the Park in peril. I think he is correct but for the wrong reasons. And since I believe his reasons are wrong, the remedies he is likely to propose (he has yet to do so) will necessarily be wrong and, I fear, counterproductive.

      In short, I don’t think it is possible to diversify the Park to the extent that those outside the Park would substantially change their support. And it would alienate those residing in the Park as well as outsiders who are the staunchest supporters. Finally it would be a diversion from other debates and activities that COULD sustain the Park.

      Actually, Liberals used to have a valuable role in political discourse. That was when they used to be passionate about personal freedom. Now they have become some kind of mirror image of the Conservatives, like the Star Trek episodes where the transporter malfunctioned splitting Captain Kirk into two opposite personalities (both dysfunctional) or putting the crew in a mirror universe.

      • Pete Nelson says:


        Okay, I’ll respond to you directly, on two things anyhow.

        First, you and a few others are making some interesting assumptions driven entirely by conservative politics. Anyone who cares to check will be able to verify that in not a single one of my columns in this series have I employed either the word “liberal” or the word “conservative.” You are arguing from a conservative political position, which is fine, but your assumptions about my politics are just that and nothing more; they have nothing to do with anything.

        Second you characterized my position as “fear of change,” just as your position was characterized by another reader as “fear of change.” Speaking for myself, I have no fear whatsoever, only concerns I have expressed clearly in my arguments.

        Let me be fair and refer to your positions as “concerns,” not fears, as well. Then I can only say that the nature of my “concerns” is quite different than the nature of your “concerns.” The nature of your “concerns” impresses me not one bit.

        • Outlier says:

          The fixation on “diversity” is typically a concern of the “Left” side of the political spectrum. It certainly is not of the “Right.” If you take umbrage at being called a “liberal” I apologize. Liberal has become a slur since there is nothing very liberal about them. No wonder they now like to call themselves progressives. One thing I notice about the Left is that they are very sensitive to labels and language. That explains why they keep renaming their failed ideas.

          I also notice that today’s problems (real or imagined) are always a result of “white-centric” thinking. If there is a disconnect between residents of the Park and minorities, it’s because the residents are parochial and insular. If basing the Park on an idea that nature can have a space to be left relatively undisturbed is an untenable example of white-centric thinking, then the Park must change.

          And before you go labeling me a conservative – I’ve got no use for them either. They are as delusional as the liberals. Opposing abortion in the name of being “pro-life” they turn around and want to bomb the rest of the planet. Favoring domestic spying as long as one of their own is in power. Or believing that Martin Luther King was a Republican.

          That my arguments have failed to impress you does not disturb me. Still, I do look forward to your proposed remedies to address lack of diversity in the Park.

  14. laurie says:

    I’ve followed this series (as I do all of Pete’s articles) with great interest and thought I’d offer some anecdotal evidence that diversity may in fact be on the rise in the park — if slowly and at the edges.

    I grew up camping for two weeks every summer at Rogers Rock campground on the north end of the Lake George in the 70s and 80s. Our fellow campers were almost exclusively white, lower-middle class families. The same general population made up the bulk of visitors to Lake George Village on busy summer days. “Diversity” was hearing a French being spoken by a Canadian visitor.

    My husband and I are fortunate enough to own a camp in Horicon now, and while we prefer avoiding the tourist traps in favor of more off-the-beaten-path destinations within the park, we visit both Rogers Rock and the village with some regularity. I was surprised during a summer day-use visit to Rogers Rock a couple years ago to hear a variety of languages being spoke (and types of music being played) as we walked around the campground by young families likely looking for the same affordable escape from the city that drew my own parents there in the 70s and 80s.

    In the village, the most notable change in the racial profile I’ve noticed is an influx of Asians and Indians, including one of my own former co-workers, whose extended family of first-generation Indian Americans who love the Lake George area and visit each year over July 4th weekend.

    Granted, these are only my own anecdotal observations, and I have no numbers to back them up. And Lake George is but a tiny corner of the Adirondack Park. But Lake George was my “gateway drug” to the Adirondacks, so to speak. My time there as a child developed a deep love of the region as a whole, which led to me being a part-time resident, and hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future, a full-time resident. It’s not unreasonable to think that some of the children of the visitors I see now will develop that same love of the region that I did.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I think your anecdotal observations are supported by the facts. We may have things to learn from the Lake George area. Thanks for the contribution.

    • Caveat M. Tor says:

      Like you, I was introduced to the ‘Dacks as a visitor decades ago, in my case as a camper at a summer camp, and it took about a half century before I moved here full-time. Here in the Old Forge area, I’ve noticed what seems to be a slightly greater diversity among visitors than among residents.

      I attribute this to the much greater diversity of the population outside the park, which, of course, constitutes the pool of potential visitors. However, in speaking with many visitors here (which I do, as we run a cottage colony,) it’s clear to me that virtually none of these visitors considers a move here to be a viable option, due to our severely limited job base.

      Additionally, for non-white/non-Christian minorities, there’s a lack of cultural/ethnic/religious support in this area which will discourage such families from settling here, even if they enjoy what we have to offer. And many parents, both white and minority, want to raise their kids in areas with greater ethnic diversity (as I did)so they’ll be exposed to a range of cultures. These factors become self-fulfilling prophecies for small towns in the park.

      • Outlier says:

        “And many parents, both white and minority, want to raise their kids in areas with greater ethnic diversity (as I did)so they’ll be exposed to a range of cultures.

        MOST want SAFE neighborhoods and schools where learning can take place without distractions.

        • Will Doolittle says:

          Safe is not the opposite of ethnically diverse.

          • Outlier says:

            Usually it is. It strongly depends on what constitutes your “diversity”.

            Homogeneous populations, while perhaps less exciting, are usually far more peaceful. Peaceful, ethnically diverse populations have historically either had to live in their distinct areas with some sort of autonomy (Switzerland or Quebec) or under an authoritarian regime (Yugoslavia, the USSR, China).

            Someone pointed out how the US grew to be a superpower with a diverse population. However, these immigrants largely came from a Christian Europe. They Anglicized their names when they got here. They were expected to inculcate WASP values. Still, they lived in their distinct areas. Eventually, there was intermarriage. Usually it was between those that share the same religion (Polish and Italian Catholics, for example).

            The 1965 immigration law was specifically intended to expand immigration beyond Europe. So, we weren’t diverse after all. There is no longer some WASP values to adapt to. It would be cultural genocide. In fact WE are expected to make accommodations. Press 1 for English. Provide a prayer room. Provide translators. Provide resettlement aid. Provide ballots in multiple languages. In fact, don’t check citizenship or residency at all when voting. And if you couldn’t wait to go through all that annoying paperwork, just come on down (Like on the Price is Right) and we’ll offer amnesty.

  15. Will Doolittle says:

    To the (limited) extent it attracts a diverse population of tourists, Lake George is the exception that proves Pete’s rule of a non-diverse and not vibrant Park culture and economy. One of the advantages of diversity is the energy and creativity it brings, of new people coming into an area and adding new ideas and flavors. When what you have mostly is people whose families have lived in a place for generations, plus people who are similar culturally who have decided to move there, probably in middle age, what you get is mostly more of the same. I think the discussion is fascinating (thanks Pete), but I’m skeptical there’s a solution. On the southern edge of the Park, Lake George is closer to urban centers, and more well known, than anywhere else in the Park. Plus it offers, in small scale and in the summer only, a concentration of shops and amusements, plus natural beauty and recreation opportunities, that nowhere else in the Park does, except Lake Placid. Outlier’s tongue in cheek suggestions make sense in theory, if not in practice. Witherbee has some diversity because immigrant workers were imported to work in the mines there, and some of the families remained. Of course, work of that sort mostly doesn’t exist any more in the Adirondacks.

  16. Outlier says:

    “Outlier’s tongue in cheek suggestions make sense in theory, if not in practice.”

    If they don’t make sense in practice, the theory is WRONG.

    Most people go to the Park to ESCAPE their vibrant and diverse cities.

  17. Paul says:

    Pete, Madison (including the University of Wisconsin) is in Dane county? I also live here in a county in NY that has a major university. This fact has had a major impact on the diversity of the schools here over the past several decades. I am sure the same is true where you are. I don’t think you can fairly compare those trends to the trends in Essex or Hamilton County. Maybe pick a more comparable county in rural Wisconsin (also one without a fair size metro area) and maybe look at the trends again.

  18. adirondackjoe says:

    i don’t understand any of this.

    • Joe says:

      OK, I am not surprised you don’t get it. That is part of the problem.

      But as Outlier says below, NYS has too many other issues to worry about this anyway so sleep well. What will be will be.

  19. Outlier says:

    In a nutshell:

    The Adirondacks are too White and are not very welcoming of outsiders.

    NY State is becoming more “diverse”.

    The new demographics cannot be counted on to continue to provide political support for the Park since they are largely consumed with their own problems or come from cultures that don’t place a high priority on protecting the environment. The Park as originally envisioned and sustained for over a century was a product of “white-centric” thinking.

    The answer is to somehow make the Park more “diverse”.

    Prognosis: And you thought you were beyond reach of the insane when you moved to or vacationed in the Adirondacks? Fortunately, NY State is too broke and has other worries so this idea is likely going nowhere. Alarmingly, several ideas offered in sarcasm, seem to have been met with serious consideration. Never underestimate the power of large groups of fools who vote. This IS NY State, after all.

  20. Joe2 says:

    It is not worth it to engage the trolls spewing bigoted nonsense here, but it is a good example of the stated problem.

    • John L says:

      Joe2 – A. You said you weren’t going to engage…yet you did. and 2. Sticks and stones…(signed) The Bigoted Troll

  21. Paul says:

    Pete, I took a stab at another WI county similar in population size to Essex county (I don’t know Wisconsin from Adam so maybe you could pick a better one)

    If you look at the data the two counties both lack any diversity.

    I didn’t look at 2000 since there is no direction to go but up for both counties! So like Essex county there is no positive trend (even if small) regarding diversity. My guess is that with the U of WI and the fairly “large” city of Madison you are making a poor comparison.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      You’re missing my point, Paul. The lack of diversity and movement that way is not unique to the Adirondacks. I grant it is alive and well in Wisconsin. I’m making a comparison to illustrate the dynamic.

      By the way, Dane County is beset with racial and socioeconomic inequality. It is no poster child for anything.

      • Paul says:

        I understand. I guess I did miss the point. I understand that demographic trends can change if that was the point. In fact the “dynamic” is well illustrated in many places that have the right mix of things to attract a more diverse population. The point that I was making is that Dane county, unlike Essex county, probably has the right things (I suggested a large University and a fairly large city – Madison).

        What really strikes me here about some of the comments is that it sounds like some people are good with no diversity whether inevitable or not. That is bananas, it is so much better for everyone to live in a place where diversity abounds. That is what this country is all about. It is taking us a long time to get there. Why would the Adirondacks want to be left out?

        • Outlier says:

          “…it is so much better for everyone to live in a place where diversity abounds.”

          This is stated over and over as though it is a self-evident truth. Yet NOBODY can provide any support for this claim or admit that there are any drawbacks to diversity.

  22. Pete Nelson says:

    Outlier has been dominating the comments section this week with what is fundamentally a political argument offered from a conservative political perspective (I mean “conservative” in the traditional sense, not the contemporary name-calling sense). There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, so you won’t find me calling him a bigot, although I do wonder where any sense of ethics more sophisticated than “I got mine and I’m keeping it” fits into his world… I don’t see it.

    But I’m not here to argue politics or ethics (this time). I’m here to expose the fatal flaw in his perspective. Outlier is completely (or conveniently) missing the gradient part of my argument, the upward slope. Some of the things he says might be true, but only from the perspective of privilege. A homogenous white Hinsdale neighborhood west of Chicago in the 1980’s might be safer, cleaner and economically healthier than mixed and mostly non-white Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side in 2014. But Bronzeville in 2014 is far safer, cleaner and more economically developed than the same area was in the 1980’s, this as Chicago has slowly but surely started to become a less racist, segregated place.

    It is offensive to me that someone would tout safe white communities as better than a diverse alternative (seriously, how loaded is that claim?) when the real comparison ought to be made not from the perspective of a privileged community but from the perspective of oppressed inner city neighborhoods and ghettos, or migrant communities conveniently cordoned off by the very socioeconomic privileges people like Outlier seem to want to invoke to protect theirs. Or don’t the poor folk in those scary neighborhoods count?

    Outlier strikes me as at least a thinker about this stuff, not reflexive and cowardly. But Outlier aside, in general do I find that perspective cowardly? You bet. Indeed, the biggest myth about people who share my perspective is the myth that we’re wimps suffering from liberal white guilt. Boy is that ever wrong. So while Outlier and others make the specious (and pretty evidently racist) claim that diversity destroys neighborhoods, I can strongly attest to the contrary: not in my experience. From Bronzeville to Hyde Park, from Brooklyn to Manhattan, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights to Atlanta, the opposite is in evidence.

    Outlier wants to know what my agenda is. Sadly for him and others who fear it, diversification is not a matter of agenda; it is a matter of fact. The world is rapidly diversifying and contrary to Outlier’s hard-to-defend claims, as it does so things are improving. The data is inarguable: poverty is going down, the spread of basic human rights is increasing, standards of living are on a steep upward trend, life expectancy is lengthening.

    Here’s a personal example that helps to illustrate the alternative to Outlier’s flawed perspective. When I was in elementary school in the early 1970’s my community was more diverse than most; indeed it was touted as one of the most “integrated” communities in the country. In fact that integration didn’t go very far beyond statistics. In 1970 white kids hung with white kids, black kids hung with black kids and the cultural, social and economic gaps between them were huge in most cases. The schools weren’t all that good yet at dealing with these challenges. My circumstances as a white upper-middle-class student, in comparison to less fortunate students, were as privileged as it gets.

    Fast forward to the year 2000. My kids attended elementary schools about as diverse statistically as mine was in 1970. But their schools were much more integrated and the challenges were bigger. Their positions in the school were not as privileged as mine was. The schools’ resources were not as great. The high-level education was not as good as my school. The strings didn’t play as well as ours (we had an actual string orchestra). If I wanted to be like Outlier I could compare the two experiences and decry what I saw as a loss, a dilution if you will.

    But I’d be fatally, selfishly wrong. You see, here’s the crucial difference: In 1970, in 4th grade, anyone spending just a little time in our classrooms could have easily pointed to the kids that were lost: the ones that weren’t going to graduate high school, that weren’t going to escape poverty, that were from bad neighborhoods, that were likely to end up incarcerated. For some of them it was already and self-evidently a done deal. I remember one white kid who might have been on that list. The rest? Black, Hispanic, poor. In my kids’ schools in 2000 such an exercise would be impossible. In those schools, for all the challenges, the diverse personalities, various cultures and the socioeconomic needs, not one kid was lost. There was opportunity, hope, growth, for every one of them, even those from the very worst of circumstances. None of them were doomed (aside – public school teachers are heroes and those who misunderstand what they do turn my stomach).

    This is even more true in 2014, as our ever-more-diverse communities strengthen and our values strengthen right along with them (my wife teaches in an elementary school, I see it all the time). That’s the reality that a privileged perspective misses. Or ignores.

    I’ll close with this: the most insidious form of discrimination isn’t the vulgar, overt kind, ever more rare as it is; it is the culturally instantiated kind, manifested when you hear someone pontificating from a position of privilege without even knowing it.

  23. Pete Nelson says:

    To add a little topping to the point… in my kids’ school district you may not be able to know that a certain child is lost – in this more diverse world the shared experiences and opportunities to be a part of it are stronger.

    But even if you can’t say for sure as you could have in my time you can win money wagering with a pretty good guess: just pick a black male. In Dane County black males between sixteen and eighteen years of age have about the same incarceration rate as they have high school graduation rate. Both are in the mid-50 percent range. That’s what I mean by a gradient. The more we diversify our communities, in all ways, the less steep that gradient becomes.

  24. Outlier says:

    If what I have is earned honestly through my own efforts then, yes “I’ve got mine and I am keeping it” applies. It’s more than a little presumptuous of you to ask someone to take an action that they disagree with, that they believe is not in their interest or even believe puts them (or their loved ones) in jeopardy.

    You are correct that I came from a “privileged” background. No, my family wasn’t wealthy – maybe middle/lower middle class. My “privilege” was that I knew who my father was – he was the man married to my mother who also got up every day and went to work. My mother was able to get my breakfast ready and have a lunch for me to take to school – not get food stamps AND free breakfast and lunch at school. My dad read the paper every night. My mom was always reading a book or magazine – Time, Newsweek etc. At 12 years old, I knew what the SALT Talks were. Where Haiphong was located. I was not even particularly encouraged to learn (my mom never finished high school, my dad never went to college). However, if I wanted to build a model rocket, turn the basement into a chemistry lab or fill the garage with recycled newspapers to buy a telescope, they never stopped me.

    This “privilege” was not and cannot be provided by any social program or social experiment. In a functional society, they are an unquestioned expectation. They are not dependent on having much if any monetary wealth. The Library is free. There are museums etc. I see no need to apologize, feel guilty or deserve punishment about having this “privilege” since I have built upon it.

    Yet, for all the programs intended to raise the status of Blacks, they become more and more dysfunctional with each passing generation. The details are familiar to all.

    Can you tell us WHAT, specifically, your kids gained from their experience? From what I can tell, you subjected them to a possibly dangerous social experiment. Fifty percent incarceration rate? If my wife were a teacher, I would home school before subjecting my children to that. I would not feel comfortable having my wife placed in such a situation. I am glad the incarceration rate has apparently improved from the near 100% of the past.

    I will commend you on practicing what you preach. And you are free to preach all you want.

    Oh, and if you want to call me a racist, it’s OK. No need to walk on eggshells. I probably fit the definition of those who often use the term. I neither embrace it nor run from it.

    Why don’t we leave the Adirondacks and it’s residents alone and let whoever wants to reside in or visit them as they wish (leaving no trace, of course)?

    • Paul says:

      “Why don’t we leave the Adirondacks and it’s residents alone”

      Commenting on diversity issues in the Adirondacks – is this some kind of meddling?

      Outlier, what is that Pete has done that makes you say he needs to leave the area alone?

      • Outlier says:

        The “problem” is the lack of “underrepresented persons” (to use the PC phrase) in the Park relative to the general state population. The obvious answer is to get more “diverse” populations to visit or reside in the Park.

        The two “diverse” population sources are US born minorities and foreign born immigrants. Since they are not currently visiting or residing in the park, it will be necessary to encourage them to do so. No specific measures have been proposed but to make any significant change, certainly some mix of financial incentives and legislative changes would be required. Perhaps the establishment of a refugee resettlement site.

        Other than those foreign born that might be relatively well off (say professionals), the new residents would undoubtedly need financial help. They will bring with them their current problems which is largely why they are poor to begin with.

        If anything like this is contemplated, it would be yet another financial drain on the state, a financial burden on the local residents (school funding, crime etc.), an unlikely to do anything to raise political support for the Park among non-Whites in the rest of the state.

        The state has tried for years to restart economic growth in areas that were previously prosperous. They have failed completely. How can jobs for the new residents be created (or are they just going to sit around in native costumes like some sort of theme park?) when the Park has strict environmental and zoning laws, no energy resources and when consumer goods have to be trucked in?

        This idea will do nothing to build public support and will excacerbate the State’s budget problems FURTHER risking public support for the Park.

        • Paul says:

          “Other than those foreign born that might be relatively well off (say professionals), the new residents would undoubtedly need financial help. They will bring with them their current problems which is largely why they are poor to begin with.”

          What are you talking about? Have you ever lived in a place with a more diverse population? So the non-white people have problems? Problems like higher academic achievement and a better working ethic than the general population and the like? Can you explain a little more?

          • outlier says:

            I have lived in South Florida, Southern California and the deep South. So, yes, I have experienced plenty of “diversity.”

            True, immigrants from Asia often do better academically than even those born here. That completely undermines the excuses made for the poor performance of Blacks and Latinos.

            The problems I am referring to are out of wedlock births, poor academic performance, high rates of STDs, criminal behavior, violence. They are not in this condition because they are poor. They are poor because of their behavior.

            Paradoxically, the ones who profess the most concern about the inner city poor generally support few, if any immigration restrictions.

            A few decades ago, Pete’s lamentations would get more sympathy and perhaps accepted as somewhat idealistic. Today, we know better.

    • Joe says:

      Well, so much for the idea of the Park being for the enjoyment of the people of the whole state….

  25. John L says:

    Well said, Outlier…..well said indeed!

  26. simon says:

    Well, Outlier and John L, I find your words very unsettling. Granted, given my age, I will likely leave before you, no avoiding that.

    I know people like you are around, and I am glad you have spoken here. I feel people like you will be the end of the Park one day, and I find that sad indeed. But with your voice here at least others will know what they are really up against, and it isn’t the odd development project, that is clear from this small discussion. Thank you for the wake up call.

    • John L says:

      You’re welcome Simon. Glad I could provide the wake up call. And, if what you mean by ‘you people’ is someone with some common sense and conservative values, guilty as charged. Further, I agree with your assertion that it’s good for others to see what they’re really up against. The more people are aware of the off the wall ideas that others are trying to impose on us all, the better. Happy hiking!! John L

    • Outlier says:

      Simon, I’m sure that odd development project will get your support as long as they use illegal alien labor.

  27. adirondackjoe says:

    Pete Nelson
    it seems to me anyone who disagrees with you is a racist.

    • Outlier says:

      Which is ironic since the initial concern is that the increasing diversity of the state population is a threat to the political support for the Park unless the Park gets with it and diversifies as well.

      If I was of the “diverse” part of the population, I would consider that patronizing.

      On the other hand, I could file a class action lawsuit claiming widespread discrimination against minorities visiting or relocating to the Adirondack Park. I could see Al Sharpton giving a speech about how the the “tracks of the Underground Railroad passed through the Adirondacks, but now the Adirondacks are off-limits to people of color.” I could write my own check.

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