Saturday, September 5, 2015

Making The Adirondack Park More Welcoming

ADAC LogoDisney has the most-visited theme parks in the United States. Disney’s marketing material depicts families having fun, families that represent a wide range of cultural diversity. Disney offers a lot of fun things for families to do and continuously announces new facilities, venues, and activities. Disney’s goal is to entice people to visit, and then visit again.

A multitude of diverse peoples lives less than a days drive away from the Adirondacks. In our state of 20 million, over 40 percent are people of color. They represent a huge potential audience, with over 5 million more living in the nearby states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey and in the city of Montréal. Problem is, we are not marketing to them: the images of people vacationing in the Adirondacks show a high percentage of white people. As an example, in a recent issue of Adirondack Life, the only non-white featured were musicians in a visiting band.

Drilling through the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau website as well as those of ORDA, and the attractions, hotels, and restaurants therein, finding people of color is no easier. A person of color seeing our materials might think that the Adirondacks is one big gated-community. One sees little implying that gay or lesbian couples, people of different faith traditions or with disabilities are welcome  – or much that implies older adults are either.

The Wild Center and Fort Ticonderoga show a few images of people of color, an exception that underscores the question: How do we make our region, communities, venues, and activities more attractive to more people so they will chose to come here to visit or live? One is to have our marketing materials signal that the Adirondacks is a great place to visit no matter who you are. Another is to ensure diversity among greeters at venues and attractions, such as among our ski instructors at Whiteface so that when diverse people arrive they feel welcome.

Every day our state, the states around us, and the country as a whole are becoming more diverse. Thus finding ways to help all of us be more welcoming to others is vital to our ability to improve our economy by increasing visitors stays, encouraging more young people and families to live here, and educating people around the state about the importance of supporting environmental protections for clean water and air and sound animal habitat for the Adirondack region. The second conference on diversity was held at the Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb in August with all this in mind. This year, the focus was on youth’s take on diversity.

Organized by the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council and hosted by State University of New York College of Environmental Forestry (SUNY ESF), the conference brought together some sixty people from across the Park. This included a small delegation of youth, half living in the park, and half, all of color, from just outside the park.

“I hope to achieve three things,” said event lead Pete Nelson. “First, to maintain momentum because we need more conversations about diversity and more competence around these issues. Second, youth engagement. Our focus today is on their perspective on life in the Park and, from those outside the Park, how they benefit from being here. Third, to come up with concrete ideas and steps to consider for going beyond just talking about diversity. We need to focus not on 90 things, but five or six most likely to be effective.”

“The Adirondack Park is a national treasure,” said Willie Janeway, Director of the Adirondack Council. “Its future depends on its welcoming and including people of all backgrounds whether that be of race, religion, economic status, or sexual orientation. It is smart economics, smart politics, and smart conversation to make sure that the Adirondack Park is open and welcoming to everyone.”

“If we want diversity, low and moderate income families need diverse employment opportunities, non-tourist priced items, services, and rentals,” said Henry Birk Albert, a 16 year-old Koyukon Athabascan Indian living in the park. “They need to see familiar faces and foods. I suggest we have an Adirondack diversity day, just like Fairbanks Alaska has, for celebration and mingling. Invite people of color to hike the “6er peaks” around Saranac Lake. And all should visit the Six Nations Museum in Onchiota. Get more kids to attend John Brown Day.”

Silas Swanson, a Saranac Lake youth, spoke of the importance of not singling out individuals (whatever their age) who are of color, gay, or whatever, repeatedly to discuss issues of difference as that can make them feel excluded; instead, treat everyone equally. Youth of color from Albany said that the silence of the woods or a night without any ambient light can be initially frightening to urban youth, and at the same time, how life-changing climbing a mountain, canoeing, or catching a fish on a fly can be. Their were surprised that few kids they met who lived in the park had climbed a mountain or gone camping! They suggested exchanges to bring Adirondack kids to experience urban environments while providing more urban kids a chance to spend time here.

Jaimiz Edwards, Director of Youth Ed-Venture Nature Network, called on young people “to be the agents of change and help educate others on the kind of change they’d like to see.” He said that before introducing urban kids to the Adirondacks, his group educates them about the history, character, and importance of an activity, be it fishing or kayaking. “They need to understand what you’re talking about,” he said. “If you ask a kid not to litter, they need to know why. We go into great depth on how long it takes plastic to decompose. They need to understand what effect they as individuals have on the planet. We do that up here, so the outdoors is our classroom. We call our trips edu-ventures because they are educational adventures, they all have an educational component.”

“I was pretty surprised by the nuanced understanding of diversity issues expressed by youth in the park, especially as they are not exposed to much diversity. I was surprised by how willing outside youth are to come here for change, to see different things, and to go beyond their comfort zone in an area that’s so quiet, so full of nature and different from what they’re normally exposed to,” said Leah Valerio of the Wild Center at day’s end. “They just need to have the opportunity to come up and, when they get here, for us to just say ‘Hi.’”

This story was first published in the Lake Placid News.

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Naj Wikoff is an artist who founded Creative Healing Connections, the Lake Placid Institute, and co-founded the Adirondack Film Society-Lake Placid Film Forum.A two-time Fulbright Senior Scholar, Wikoff has served as president of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, director of arts and healing at the C. Everett Koop Institute, Dartmouth Medical School, and director of Arts and Productions for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Wikoff also covers Adirondack community culture events for the Lake Placid News.

54 Responses

  1. Boreasfisher says:

    Thanks to you and Pete Nelson for focussing on this issue. It may be the most important to the longterm viability of the park.

  2. Chris says:

    I just hope this “idea” doesn’t result in more trash and vandalism in the woods.

    • Ethan says:

      Chris, do you think that non-whites are more likely to litter and vandalize the forest than white people?

      • Mike clarke says:

        Ethan, why do you jump to that conclusion?

        • Ethan says:

          Because of Chris’ comment. He says he hopes this ‘idea’ (encouraging diversity in the Adirondacks) doesn’t lead to more trash and vandalism. I did not make any leap of logic there in interpreting his words.

          • Mike clarke says:

            It’s an educational issue, having nothing to do with race, religion or ethnicity. Typically, people from outside this area need to be encouraged and educated regarding carry it in, carry it out philosophy. Read my comment below regarding this failure to educate in the catskills. It is an unmitigated disaster.

    • Hawthorn says:

      It is well known that some of the locals account for a large percentage of the trash and vandalism in the woods, but I agree that in general the more people in the woods the more trash.

  3. Ethan says:

    Great article, on an important topic. I was unable to attend this summer’s ADAC gathering but I’m glad to hear the momentum is continuing.

  4. Victor Forbes says:

    I know they may not be extremely colorful, but there’s more than a few boatloads, trainloads, busloads of war refugees floating (and too often sinking) around and there’s plenty of room up here in the park for colonies of ’em. Sure would add to our diversity, population, workforce, school systems, etc. Why not?

  5. Boreal says:

    Diversity aside, we must be careful about what we wish for. Do we want the Park to be more like Disneyland? I shudder when I see a tour bus parked at trailheads. I am too decrepit to hike now, part of the reason being I gave up hiking in the high peaks in the early 90s because of the crowded trails and peaks. When I finished the 46 in the mid 80s it was already becoming a problem – trailless peaks were no longer trailless, trail erosion was rampant, and solitude was becoming non-existant.

    After living and working in the Syracuse/CNY region for 15 years and making innumerable trips to the High Peaks to finish the 46, I had the opportunity to move to the ADKs in the late 90s. I had been away 4 years out west and I couldn’t believe how the central ADKs had changed. I’m not talking so much the build-up, but more of the crowding in popular areas known historically for their solitude and wildness.

    The Park is a paradox – it was created to be “forever wild” yet in the last 50 years the drift has been toward more development, tourism, and increasing the population within the blue line. We have been slowly turning a park set up to preserve true wilderness into a wilderness theme park. I admit I am part of the problem, but the region of the park I moved to (Champlain area) was never much of a wilderness but open farmland. I think all NYS citizens need to sit back and rethink what they want the park to be in the next 100 – 200 years – true wilderness or theme park.

    When we are encouraging “tourism” we need to think of the effects of that tourism, not just in monetary terms but in quality of experience and sustainability – both for residents and tourists alike. Every ADK tourist brochure shows 2-3 smiling people on top of a high peak or paddling a creek, but when the tourist they are trying to attract arrives at the trailhead, they can’t find a place to park and are greeted by dozens of people along the trails and creeks all trying to find a wilderness experience with smart phones in hand. When they get to the summit or their destination they are hardly alone. Organized trail runs, fishing derbies on sensitive trout streams, even the promotion of climbing the 46, all degrade from the experience many tourists are trying to find. Many tourists will not return as intended because they did not find what was advertised, whereas Disneyland delivers in spades.

    The paradox of the ADK Park needs to constantly be re-evaluated by the people of NY, not just businesses and residents within the Blue Line. Many people want to see their hamlet, village, town grow and prosper, but are we willing to pay the ultimate price of this development? We must always be careful what we ask for.

    • mike says:

      There are often small tour buses at the Cascade trail and the Giant / Dix trail head area, both on rt 73. Bigger than vans, smaller than buses, most are french Canadian groups. Parking in these areas is hard to find, stretches for a long distance in both directions. It is crowded.

      The response in the area has been to slowly harden the trails. This is largely working, but of course it is not the old experience due to the number of people.

      One suggestion was a (free) timed entry ticket system. You get a hiking time slot, just like admission to a famous site.

  6. M.P.Heller says:

    Diversity is a good thing. It needs to be organic though. White folks on a high horse telling minorities how they should recreate is no different than other forms of discrimination. Plenty of advertising for the park is done on areas with large minority populations. To think that it doesn’t reach them is obtuse. If they choose to experience it, the opportunity is there for them. If they choose to do something else, it’s their own choice and nobody elses. Minorities can’t be forced into embracing the park just because some upper middle class white folks think they should. We are here for them just like everyone else should they choose to come. If they prefer other recreational activities, who is anyone to say that they are wrong for preferring what makes them happy.

    • Bruce says:

      MP Heller,

      I tend to agree. I take issue with the author’s idea that there aren’t very many people of color visiting the Adirondacks because they feel they are excluded. The Adirondack Park has been around longer than any of us alive today, so it cannot be because folks don’t know it is there and that everyone is welcome.
      The northern and wilder parts of New York were never known as a hotbed of diversity.

      I believe many folks of color do not go to the Adirondacks for economic reasons. The author pointed out that costs are higher which is true, so people of any ethnicity on limited budgets might tend to recreate closer to home, at the several state parks around Syracuse for example. As far as minorities, or anyone else settling in the AP, it’s the same old story, jobs. Create a more promising job base and the people will come.

      I was raised in two places, the City of Syracuse, and in Oswego County near the north shore of Oneida Lake. One thing was very evident…minority ethnic groups tended to concentrate in the city, because that’s where the jobs were. Central HS downtown had about a 40% black student body when I went there in the 60’s. I graduated from Central Square Central HS (now Paul V. Moore HS), which at that time only had one (1) black family represented.

      One factor which isn’t obvious, and which took me awhile to discover, is that visiting the AP during the off season is cheaper than in July and August. It’s not only less expensive, it is quieter. The park could push this fact more in its advertising. We rent a camp near the end of June every year, and it just happens that a black couple from Rochester does the same thing, likely for much the same reasons.

      • JohnL says:

        Well said M.P./Bruce. Spot on. I particularly like MP’s comment about minorities and upper middle class white folks. Much of the pushing of diversity is so these same upper middle class white folks can feel good. Bottom line: Treat everyone right and ‘they will come’.

  7. KeepItWild says:

    I applaud the intent of this effort, but I think the root of the problem really is urban vs wild. We’re not a theme park. We are a true and very rare wilderness and that is increasingly not valued by urban communities. Nature deficit and all that. The unfamiliar is uncomfortable at best and downright scary at worst. It is a huge catch 22 because if we don’t concentrate our populations in cities we would not have wilderness. Cities are where our diversity shines but unless we get people and families with young kids interested in coming up/over/down to spend vacations here and truly value wilderness, grow up valuing wilderness – the quiet, the beauty, that we are but a piece of a much bigger puzzle-essentially a life view change for many – I fear it will not be the thing city folks choose on a regular basis, what with all those bugs and wild animals… and mud.

    We need to emphasize the health benefits of just soaking in the forest air like a tonic for all that ails you, like they did during the boom days of the early 20th century. That could be one “theme” for our park. Japanese call it “forest bathing” and it seems to work for them!

  8. Mike clarke says:

    Before we get too excited about bringing people here that don’t have any interest in conservation, take a look at what happened in the Catskills in the last year after the NY Times published a list of favorite swimming holes…right now today there are hundreds of people drinking beer, partying, diapers being discarded creekside, dogs crapping Creekside and no one cleaning up after themselves, along side the NOW well known Blue Hole of the upper Rondout Creek. The creek is 15 feet wide at the most, 15 feet deep and double the width at the spot where the blue hole exists. Certainly not big enough to accommodate a RESPONSIBE crowd of this size. They will be leaving their garbage behind. The overwhelmed Rangers and locals alike have been cleaning up after them, but now, apparently, a dumpster is being placed on site to accommodate their trash, which again, the Rangers and the local volunteers apparently have to pick up and bag for them. Just a quick glance will reveal that this IS a racially diverse crowd. They aren’t campers and hikers OR nature lovers, but they are picnicking and enjoying the outdoors in their own way. It would be easy to say that they are not the people I want here in the Catskills or in the Adirondacks. But I have spoken with some of these people. They are mostly likeable people, just like everyone else, looking for a little bit of heaven in between their otherwise ho-hum lives. And they have found it, and at the same time are spoiling it.
    And not because of their skin color or the non-English languages they speak. Let’s not focus on skin color, or on ethnicity, but on people’s attitudes to the outdoors. I know plenty of brown skinned and other people of color who like to hike and enjoy the outdoors responsibly. I’m not offended to see a lack of diversity when I see a crowd of mostly white people responsibly hiking up to the peak of Marcy, nor am I offended when I see a crowd of mostly dark, or brown, skinned people at a rap concert. People gravitate toward their interests, and ethnicity plays a huge role in that. Quit trying to turn an apple into an orange. Why do people have to insist that the lack of diversity in ANY locale is necessarily a bad thing. Granted, the more we know about each other and our differences, the better off we all are.

    MEANWHILE, the NYSDEC has spent millions of dollars buying land and building an interpretive center in the Catskills just a few close miles to this now famed attraction, the Blue Hole. I stopped in there last weekend to see what purpose it serves. There were 3 cars in the lot which accommodates about 50 or more, and just as many people manning the information and book sales desk inside. When I asked the uniformed DEC employee what purpose the interpretive center served, he was speechless. He then offered me some brochures and said to look around a little. What a waste. This crisis at the Blue Hole could be turned into a teachable moment for all involved…so called racist locals, ethnically diverse outsiders, all could benefit from an on site interpretive event at the blue hole. Flood the place with environmental educators and peace officers to educate the users of their folly. Take some of the people on a nature hike into the woods. Most are truly afraid to do it alone, and would appreciate a guided trip. Most are simply ignorant of the ways of the wilderness.

    But the DEC has spent it’s money on a white elephant, paved a pristine meadow, put up closed signs and a gate on land I used to hike, and has ignored the plight of the blue hole and of our diverse population.

    As irritating as they can be, I can see the good the high peaks stewards have done by being present on the peaks. But the DEC has spent it’s money on building a multimillion dollar brochure kiosk and hasn’t got the funds to provide adequate control of the public who are unknowingly, ignorantly, trampling a pristeen work of mother nature. But at least they are a diverse crowd. For shame.

  9. Dan says:

    Great! Can’t wait for the politically correct loonies to start “helping” the oppressed to enjoy the great outdoors.

  10. Naj Wikoff says:

    Yes, we do need to educate people on the importance of protecting our environmental resources as our collective disregard has lead to climate change that is resulting in more severe weather patterns, the melting of the seas, and one of the greatest losses of biological diversity in the shortest time span in history. With the increasing urbanization of society that becomes more challenging, yet no less important. Models like establishing interpretive centers will not work if we do not get people in the doors. Part of the solution is, like JohnL wrote, is to treat people right, and that requires helping them feel welcome, and even before they get here, helping them understanding how to protect the environment while they are here enjoying it.

    The reality is that our society is becoming increasingly diverse, especially ethnically, culturally, socially, and economically. In my mind we need to think of proactive solutions. The meeting in Newcomb was an effort, a small step, along that path. Terrific was the sensitivity displayed to these issues and how to create paths forward by young people who lived in the park and those who lived in urban settings, some in very tough urban settings. They felt part of the solution was to have Adirondackers experience what it’s like to live in an inner city, just as it’s valuable for urban kids to experience living in a small Adirondack town.

    No one wants to turn the Adirondacks into a theme park, but no question managers at places like Disney have learned how to help people feel welcome, and one of that is to have lots of cultural diversity on their front line and another is to treat all visitors with respect. I don’t think we do a good job of educating people on taking out what they bring in, meaning to not toss their trash along trails or trail heads for for some trail sweeper to pick up. Mountain Stewards have demonstrated that people in key places can make quite a difference, and now a similar effort is being made to help keep out invasive species at boat launches.

    I don’t believe that protecting our environment will happen organically, as “organically” we humans are fast destroying our planet and the quality of all life including our own. Instead I think we need to work hard to change human behavior, and that will not be easily done. I applaud the organizers of the diversity conference from not shying away from these challenges, and instead coming together to seek solutions. Hopefully more will join their effort.

  11. Athur Hollingshead says:

    You guys are fantasizing. I grew up in NYC and lived my life there apart from college and grad school. When people in NYC — white, black and in between — think about getting away, they never think about Upstate or the Adirondacks. There’s a general disgust felt by NYC people towards the rest of the state. When my family wanted the experience of nature, they went north to New England or south to West Virginia. Don’t worry, this will never happen because only a small number of NYC people of any color or hue will ever be interested in the Adirondacks.

    • AG says:

      Strange – since I know quite a few people of color in/from NYC who like going to the ADK’s…. It’s just that the Poconos and Catskills are closer.

      • Athur Hooingshead says:

        Sure, I ended up coming here, but only after moving to another state first. Nobody wants to drive four and half hours from NYC only to still be in NY State. Why would I, white or black, want to do that when I could as easily drive to Maine? Moreover, NYC people of all colors regard the rest of the state as depressed and hick-ridden. There’s a real, if not hostility, dislike or aversion. That’s your real problem. And it isn’t race-specific.

  12. AG says:

    Comparing to Disney is a little off base. DisneyLand and Disney World selling the complete opposite experience of the ADK’s. The ADK’s is supposed to be about nature. Disney is selling fantasy. Going to Disney is expensive. Both parks are far more popular in terms of visits than any of the “nature parks” in the country – whether federal or local. People unfortunately love fantasy more than the nature we came out of. Second – there is a reason the Disney parks are in Orlando and Anaheim as opposed to Minneapolis or Bloomington, VT nor somewhere in Alaska. Colder weather places are not as popular. Third is that the ADK’s – while bigger – isn’t as “wild” as some other places in the country. Frankly – I think trying to prop up dying communities is not the best idea. The world is becoming more urbanized for a reason. Eco-tourism is a much better idea… Within the framework of more wilderness.

  13. roamin with broman says:

    This sounds like a limousine liberal solution, in search of a problem. The woods and mountains are what they are. Come enjoy them if you like.

    • Dan says:

      Exactly! Now that the Confederate flag “problem” has been solved the saviors can focus on this. Where does this lunacy end?

      • JohnL says:

        Dan: The answer to your question on the ending of the lunacy is…..never! Limousine liberals are forever. They NEVER tire of ‘saving’ the world.

  14. Hawthorn says:

    I disagree that creating fake advertising photos emphasizing diverse people in the Adks is a good idea. If I am contemplating a trip to the Bahamas or to Latin America I wouldn’t expect to see white Anglos in the advertising photos except when showing luxury resorts. People can spot fake imagery a mile away. My kids laugh all the time about faked up advertising shots deliberately showing one person from race A, one from B, and one from C, along with a woman and a disabled person. Show what’s really there (mountains, streams, lakes, trails, etc.) and it will speak to those who seek such attributes. Fake imagery will get you nowhere. The current advertising emphasis that seems to work somewhat is on making the Adks a theme park like disney: zip lines, snowmobiles, water slides, ski slopes, etc. Maybe that is a good thing as it brings in people (and money) from away, limits the damage done to the wilderness areas, and at the same time is a gentle encouragement to people to understand the great outdoors who might not be ready for a bushwhack up Santanoni. I do see a lot more diversity in places like Lake George and Lake Placid than in most other areas. Go to a ski area on a busy holiday and you will meet lots of people from NYC and Boston.

    • Boreal says:

      I agree – let the bugs, mud, terrain, and rustic amenities sort out who wants to come to the mountains. You never see a tourist brochure with a picture of someone up to their ankles in mud swatting blackflies & skeeters.

  15. Paul says:

    There is certainly lots of economic diversity in the Adirondacks. There are few places that a billionaire and a poor person can have a chance meeting on the lake.

    If you want to attract an urban population and the diversity that would come with it you probably need to make the place a little less wild.

    Having grown up in the Adirondacks the fewer people there are around me the safer I feel. My wife having been raised in a major east coast city feels less safe when she is in an area where she is far away from others and help. For example someone from a big city is comfortable running in a city park. On a deserted adirondack road not so much. It is all about what makes you feel comfortable.

  16. Hawthorn says:

    I think urban populations are getting stereotyped here. They are vast enough to include all sorts of people, with all sorts of levels of knowledge of the backcountry. People like Bob Marshall were born in New York City and the Adirondack Mountain Club was founded there. Just like you or I would study where to go and what to do if we were traveling to London or Mexico City those venturing into the Adks may know a lot more about the “wilderness” than someone who has spent their entire life there. I find that is often the case when I visit a place–the locals are too busy making a living, raising kids, fixing the roof to really know the big picture. I’m the same way when somebody visits me–I have to read up on what visitors do in my own town. The idea that “urban” populations are more or less afraid of this or that is preposterous. Look at all the gun-toting Adkers, afraid of who knows what. It is not about transforming the Adks into something it isn’t, but about being welcoming to everyone who has the desire to come and see it for what it is.

    • Paul says:

      Hawthorn, I agree with you specifically. I was speaking generally. Perhaps “afraid” is too far. But you are going to find different levels of comfort that you have to consider when you want to try and get folks to move outside of their comfort zone. Funny I grew up in the largest town in the Adirondacks and still spend lots of time there I don’t see any of these “gun-toters” you are talking about? But I am sure there are some around. My guess is that you have more gun-toters in an urban setting. Again it is perception not reality we are talking about. I checked and they seized 22,575 illegal guns in the city of Baltimore from 2008 to 2014. So there are maybe lots more guns in a place like that but if you are raised there you still may feel more comfortable there than in a place like Saranac Lake. Especially if everyone looks different and talks different and dresses different….

      • Hawthorn says:

        Rural gun ownership rates are much higher than urban rates, and the rate is higher amongst Republicans compared to Democrats. Though I don’t know the specific percentages of gun ownership in the Adks vs. NYC I am certain it is much higher in the north country. Just look at all the repeal the SAFE Act signs along any road in the Adks. NYC has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. I wonder how many illegal guns are owned in the Adks while local law enforcement looks the other way? But, the point is that different people are afraid of different things for different reasons, but they are often afraid of the wrong things too!

        • Paul says:

          I think of a “gun-toter” a bit different than a gun owner. I have several shotguns and rifles but they are locked in a safe with the ammunition in a different safe for most of the year. These illegal guns floating around are the scary ones. If they seized 22,000 how many do you think there actually are? Gotta be huge. It is not difficult to get a permit for a handgun in most parts of upstate NY. Anyway, a bit off the track.

          Yes, I agree people are afraid of the wrong things also. But that is what it is. I think if we want to see a more diversity, and the argument (and a sound one) is join with the rest of the country and diversify – or die, we have to work to make folks feel comfortable. That means you cater to their wants and needs. Plain old marketing 101.

          • Tim says:

            Why should we cater to there needs? Should we hang signs in Spanish, Portaguses, Russian, ect???? How much money will the tax payers of NYS have to pay to cater to thier needs?

            How come the state always caters to the special interest groups, not the whole? The state will spend more money to cater to a few people then what they will reap in revenues from the special interest groups.

            Why do we got to market the ADK to the minorities? If they don’t know it exist by now then they will never know. I think geograpghy is still taught in schools today? I knwo it was when I was when I was in school.

            • Paul says:

              Tim, that is the point the “whole” is becoming a very diverse US population (NYS as well). NYS like other states will eventually be a majority minority (or whatever it is called) population. Whites like myself are soon to be the “special interest” group.

              • Tim says:

                The white male is the minority in todays standard, in other words everyone is a minority in America except the white male. You and I will both be dead by the time they offically classify us as a minority.

                I do not agree with the fact that the whole has to provide special treatment to a few special intrest groups. Thats part of the reason why this state and country is in deficate.

                Last I knew, this was a free country and we all have the same oppertunities. The difference is that some choose NOT to use thier oppertunities. No one says that can’t go to the ADK, no one says that can’t go to school, no says that can’t go to work… Its their choice not go to the ADK, school, work, ext…

                I don’t think it is “our” responsibility or our check books responsonsibllity to try to market the ADK to them, if they really want to know, then they will seek it out. They all have i-phones and I bet they are not researching about things to do in the ADK. One can only wonder what they research in their spare time…

    • -B says:

      “I think urban populations are getting stereotyped here.”

      Well, yeah, this is kind of the point of the ongoing series.

      Yet, every time this stereotyping is pointed out, it’s met with derision and wagon-circling. See the comments here about political correctness and limousine liberals. And this is one of the most civil discussions the series has seen; at one point a commenter had linked to the Almanack from a white power forum in an attempt to brigade the comment section. But we’re still told that the problem isn’t in the rural population at all, it’s solely in the urban areas that rich liberal white-guilted elites are trying to attract from.

  17. Jake says:

    Regardless of color, there are good people and bad people. The fact is that where there are large populations of minorities the crime and vandalism are much higher per capita. Look at most of the New England States, they have low minority rates and low crime and vandalism rates. I do not make up these statistics, just go ahead a google it. Try googling the area you live in and then google an area where the minorities are abundance.

    The question is, do we really want to have more crime and vandalism in the Adirondacks than we already have? Also, you don’t have to be a minority to commit a crime or vandalize.
    Think about it.

    If they want to increase tourism, then they should make some bike trails, allow the use of mountain bikes (non-motorized) in the wilderness area.

    Do some selective harvesting of the woods to increase wildlife opportunities (hunting, sightseeing). By increasing the wildlife opportunities you will bring in non-residents for hunting, in which they will pay high tag fees, spend money at the local establishments, and increase tax revenue.

    Open up other parts of the Park for use; let’s be honest there is a small percentage of the Park that is actually utilized. The High Peaks are over used.

    • Paul says:

      Jake, it has nothing to do with the color of people skin. It has everything to do with opportunity.

      A very rich Chinese man just bought Brandon Park for a cool 28 million, why do you think that attracting diversity is about attracting criminals and vandals?

      Yes, with more people come issues you have to deal with.

      It is certainly an option to not diversify and to slowly die away. I am an avid hunter and our sport is slowly dying away partially because we are not attracting a changing population to the sport.

      • Tim says:

        The sport is dyeing away because more and more people are buying land and posting it up tight because they are afraid that someone else might shoot a bigger buck then they are going to. There are also a lot of landowners that are leasing their land to hunters who once again are afraid someone else is going to shoot a bigger buck then they are. The sport is dying because of the cost associated with it. It is turning into a rich man sport.

        Please explain what is the changing population to the sport? Gun Control? Less land to hunt? Increased fees to get a permit?

  18. Charlie S says:

    M.P.Heller says: “White folks on a high horse telling minorities how they should recreate is no different than other forms of discrimination. Plenty of advertising for the park is done on areas with large minority populations. To think that it doesn’t reach them is obtuse. If they choose to experience it, the opportunity is there for them. ”

    I was thinking the same thing M.P. One would think that if blacks or hispanics or Ukranians or…. had it in them to absorb the wilderness experience they would do so! It seems cut and dry to me. It’s not as if these groups of people dont know the Adirondacks exist. This same topic was brought up some months ago and I pretty much said the same thing. It seems odd that we would even consider advertising to non-white groups of people to come to the Adirondacks. If they wished to come surely they would have by now. I mean who’s stopping them? It’s not as if there were signs saying ‘No blacks or Texans or ? allowed.’

    • joe says:

      No one is stopping them. It is not clear that ‘all these groups’ do know the Adirondacks exist.

      But assume they know all about it, or think they do. And they willfully don’t visit here for a whole host of reasons. Mostly, they don’t care about it or think about it much at all.

      These are the future ‘people of the State’ who will pay for it, vote about it when Art 14 amendments happen, and can decide to take it or leave it at some point in the budget future of NYS. So if they could care less about the place, the place will be in trouble one day. That’s this idea. Simple really.

  19. Mike says:

    So, in the years I’ve been reading and mostly enjoying the blogs and posts here, the central theme was always preserving the ADKS wilderness. But this author’s concern is not with environmental impact, but rather the “racial diversity” among those that do impact the environment. And “a more diverse adirondacks” certainly doesn’t mean a greater display of flora and fauna, so we’re not talking about more trees, flowers and wilderness, no it’s safe to say that in this instance it clearly is a euphemism for “too many white people and not enough people of color” in the Adirondacks. And the residents are somehow to blame. How offensive!

    I’m sure all would agree that the wilderness doesn’t differentiate between the footprints and environmental impact left by humans ,regardless of their ethnicity. Not only is it troubling that the author does so, but worse, that he has a rather public forum in which to do it.

    • Bruce says:


      I think you’ve summed up my thoughts nicely. I have a little difficulty getting my head around the idea that suggests white folks may have a hidden agenda by not having more racial diversity in Adirondack advertising, businesses, and recreational opportunities. I’ve been coming to the Adirondacks every year for the last 10, and I have not seen one thing even hinting at “minorities not welcome,” other than perhaps the expense and lack of jobs, which keeps a lot of others away too.

      I just looked up something; as of 2014, New York State’s non-white population was about 25% of the total, yet in the cities, the proportions are significantly higher with Buffalo being some 50%, and Syracuse about 35%. Does this mean we need to find ways to attract more whites to the cities? Racial demographers like to use numbers and averages as “proof” there’s something wrong. Numbers don’t tell the whole story.

      I do agree more children of all races need to be given the opportunity for hands-on experience in a very unique and wonderful place.


      • Paul says:

        There is a huge divide between NOT welcome and the idea of being MORE welcoming. Nobody claimed the former.

        The main point is that most of the country is becoming more diverse it is not limited to urban areas.

        These cities mirror what the overall demographics are trending toward. NYS is 30% non-white. The US is 25% non-white.

        The people who will be making decisions about what happens to the Adirondacks is going to be made by a diverse group of people.

  20. Annee Borthwick says:

    White, seventy, capital-district NYer, I’ve been north of Lake George only 3 times in 42 years. As an urban person, I also need to be encouraged to walk in the ADK woods, to cherish the quiet as well as the animal noisyness and wind in the trees. You woods people need my support and my votes. ADK will benefit long term by successfully promoting and educating midstate / downstate urbanites.

  21. Bruce says:

    Naj’s idea of exposing more children to the great outdoors is a good one. A similar program is being started here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. While not as popular as it once was, Scouting is still a viable way to get youth into the outdoors, where conservation, ecology, ,environmental awareness, and personal development are still cornerstones of the program.

    • Tim says:

      NYS offers plenaty of oppertunities for childeren to get out of the inner cities and see the great outdoors.

      Here is just one of them

    • Hawthorn says:

      For some reason my comment here disappeared. One issue with bringing youth to the Adirondacks are limits on group size, which I support. But, it makes it difficult if not impossible to bring a full Boy Scout troop or college outdoor club to many areas where you used to see them in the past.

      • Paul says:

        I think you just need to get a permit for a larger group. I don’t think they are difficult to get. I think you basically just have to ask.

        I have seen some pretty big (and noisy) groups in the St. Regis Canoe area.

        • Hawthorn says:

          In the past you used to encounter large Boy Scout troops camped at Marcy Dam or Indian Falls, and the road into the Adirondack Loj would be lined with big tour buses on busy weekends. I don’t see that today. Another big factor with youth today is that they are all in very organized sports that require incredible commitments from families–our local teams require training 7 days a week including over vacations or you just don’t make the team. Couple that with both parents working full time and it makes it very difficult to contemplate driving a few hours for a hike or to spend a weekend in the woods, even if you want to.

          • Paul says:

            I agree. The explosion in video game use may also have something to do with it. Don’t know that stats but from my observations there are fewer young people in the woods.

            My point above was that if you can find the kids that want to do it I think you can get a permit for larger groups. Also I think that it is just required for camping. We used to to have some pretty big groups of kids we took hiking. As long as it was a day trip I don’t think it was a problem. But I had the luxury of living right in the middle of the Adirondacks back then so we spent the nights in our beds at home!

            One area where we maybe overlook diversity is with our Canadian friends. In some cases it seems like there are more Canadian cars at a TH than any others. And I bet many of them are coming from a major urban area – in and around Montreal. It looks like 30% of Montreal is “non-white”. Not as diverse as NYC but not bad.


            • Hawthorn says:

              The lack of youth participation is draining other sports and activities of a future. Boating and hunting are other good examples. Having raised two kids recently I can say that from my perspective it was lack of time and lack of money that I would pinpoint as the big problems. Not only did the sports take up every available free day, but homework burdens today are ridiculous (and unnecessary). Every parent works fulltime, and many hold down second jobs. Our safety culture also inhibits many (not us) from letting kids be kids and roam, play in the woods, or whatever by themselves. When I was a teen friends and I would go for weekend hikes in the High Peaks by ourselves. As a grade schooler I went on hikes by myself or with friends in local woods. Add in the burden of distance and it is no wonder that urban families don’t bring their kids to the Adks.

  22. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: “The explosion in video game use may also have something to do with it.”

    It’s television Paul! We are a zombie nation thanks to the Godhead tv!

  23. Bruce says:

    I see the author’s point about Disney advertising, but I wonder how much is just that, advertising? With ticket cost, lodging, food and travel expenses, do Disney Park patrons really reflect the diversity of the general population? Adirondack advertising might change to show greater diversity, but the reality needs to match the target audience for real diversity to happen.

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