Monday, August 24, 2020

Multi-Media Storymap to explain Adirondack Overuse

Julia Randall, A recent graduate from Williams College has designed a multi-media “StoryMap” which explains the overuse issues which face the Adirondack Park in a simple, easy-to-digest way.

Consisting of easy vocabulary, interactive maps, info-graphics, video and audio clips, and viewer-manipulated photographs, the map (available for viewing here) was designed as a special project following Randall’s post-graduation internship in the Adirondack Council’s Elizabethtown office.

The StoryMap starts off by showcasing what overuse looks like, then goes into explaining the various types and patterns of use that exist presently. It then describes the progress which the state has made to date. It explains the 2050 Vision project, and talks about ow comprehensive planning works, and the best management practices needed to overcome the necessary obstacles. Some of these solutions include outreach and education, front-country infrastructure (such as parking, trails into communities, restrooms); back-country infrastructure (sustainable trails, lean-tos, campsites) and limits on use (such as parking, shuttles, reservations, etc.) and an increase in money and personnel (rangers, planners, conservation police, engineers, trail crews, interpreters, etc.)

Randall is currently a writing tutor and essay coach, and studied English, environmental science, and music at Williams College.  Adirondack Council Communications Director John Sheehan, and Adirondack Council Vision 2050 Director Julia Goren (respectively) had the following to say about the story map.

“This is a tremendously easy and entertaining way to understand what is at stake when too many people crowd into the Adirondack Park’s most popular destinations, everything you could hope to know about the problem –how it started, where it is worst, how to fix it –are all explained.  You can examine the facts you care about most in minute detail, or breeze through the entire presentation like it was a movie.”

“Overuse and poorly designed trails are causing harm to water quality, wildlife and forest health all over the Adirondack Park. It’s hard for a newspaper or television news item to convey the full extent of the problem and its effects. The StoryMap helps the audience understand this complex issue on a visceral level. Julia’s work is a really effective way to understand the many facets of this issue.”

Randall herself had the following to say: “Like climate change, overuse is really difficult to
and understand — it’s a complicated, multifaceted issue happening in slow-motion over decades. Although there’s physical evidence proving its existence, some people don’t believe in it or refuse to acknowledge that it’s an issue. The overuse conversation also raises some big questions — what should wilderness be? To ensure that everyone can enjoy it, do we have to limit access to it? With this StoryMap, I wanted to show that the conversation on overuse must be data-driven.”




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10 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Quite the website! Kudos for effort!

    Being pedantic, I prefer the term “increased usage” over the term “OVER usage”. Since we have no concrete guidelines as to what usage should be considered normal or acceptable on each trail or in each area, “over use” will always be subjective. We need to get away from that and use objective data and science to drive usage analysis in the HPW and elsewhere in the Park.

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Boreas – We may not have concrete guidelines, but I bet the data exists. Decades of research by grad students at places like ESF and UVM have looked into the Carrying Capacity and LNT concepts. My money says that good studies have been done and that serious recommendations have been made. Politics would be the reason nothing has been implemented.

    • Good point about “overuse”….I was using the language that the Council provided in their release, but will keep that in mind going forward!

      • Boreas says:

        I guess I keep thinking of the top of Whiteface with basically stone/concrete staircase to the top. It sees a great deal of usage, but do we call that “overuse”? Not really, because that part of the trail is designed for it. Handrails also keep people on the trail. So first, one must determine what is acceptable usage for any trail system before you should call anything overused.

        In my mind, DEC set out reasonable usage standards decades ago when they installed limited parking areas. But politics and benign neglect of the parking situation brings us to what we see today. What would have been considered overuse in the 70s is considered normal today. It is a paradigm shift that is often overlooked.

        • Balian the Cat says:

          I incorrectly referenced LNT (Leave No Trace) above when I meant LAC (Limits of Acceptable Change). At the risk of beating a dead whatever – the science and data exist. Carrying Capacity (your parking area example is a good one) for an area is a calculable term. The LAC criteria for an area can easily be determined. It’s getting the political buy-in to enforce/manage natural resources on those terms is the high hurdle. Until we get somebody to say out loud “The natural integrity of this area is more important than superficial claims about the local economy AND votes” the entire discussion is an intellectual exercise.

  2. Ed says:

    In the future you’ll have to buy an access permit to be in the backcountry . That will limit the number of people out there and ensure enough parking .

  3. seleden says:

    It was an impressive, fascinating article. Congratulations.

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