Making the Adirondack Park more attractive to youth of all backgrounds and preferences was the focus of the second Towards a More Diverse Adirondacks Symposium on August 15th at SUNY-ESF in Newcomb. We had a robust discussion, and the bulk of our time was given to the voices of high school and college-age students, from inside and outside the Adirondacks.
Why should the average Almanack reader care about what gets discussed by young people at a diversity symposium in Newcomb? Because in a world that is growing more diverse, the environmental and economic future of the park depends in part on the perspectives they hold.
What we heard might surprise some diversity skeptics. Rather than flowery expressions of idealism, we heard bread and butter issues that everyone cares about: jobs, transportation, better communications, the availability of goods and services. These are hard problems to solve, to be sure. Our young contributors did not look to economic solutions of the past, however. Young people are impeccably current; that perspective alone is valuable.
It was made clear to us that young people, regardless of gender, identity, color or culture, value the Adirondack Park as a protected wild place with healthy and inclusive communities. “Why urbanize Newcomb?” asked one. “Maybe Newcomb is fine as it is, without all the modern conveniences. Maybe the people of Newcomb don’t want what they have to be ruined.”
Many of the young people said they rejected the idea that a “small town mentality” was a bad thing. “What do neighborhoods in Albany or New York City have but small town identities?” it was pointed out. They said communication, a welcoming attitude and shared experiences matter, not homogenization.
The many ideas we heard at the symposium, convened by the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, were motivating. Several projects are in the works, from youth outings in the Adirondacks and Capital District, to developing transportation hubs, continuing work to diversify signage, outreach and marketing materials, and ongoing education and training.
As with the first diversity symposium in Newcomb, the energy and commitment of participants was terrific and speaks to the passion those who live and visit here have to make the Adirondack Park the best it can be.