Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Skidmore College Students Investigate Inclusivity in the Adirondack Park

Adirondack Park MapThe Adirondack Park is a recreational destination in Upstate New York with more than 12 million visitors to the Park every year. While public lands are owned by all, and should be a welcoming, safe, and inclusive space, racial and economic disparities affect visitors, visitation rates, as well as perceptions of inclusion and safety.

While the Park is open to the public (with hardly any visitor fees), the Adirondacks attract predominantly white, male visitors. Research has traced this disparity as far back as the 18th century, when slavery was a harsh reality within the area.

This structural inequality has persisted to this day, with racially-targeted incidents, such as racist graffiti, have occurred in the Adirondack park. One of these occurrences targeted a regular park visitor, a Black woman who lives near the area. This unacceptable treatment of visitors of color is a pattern, bringing the divide apparent in the 18th century present to today.

One of the organizations working to combat this is the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, a collective which is seeking to make changes in the diversity and inclusion of the park. They are continually promoting equity and inclusivity by offering diversity training programs and educational resources about race. In addition, they are working with other groups, such as the Adirondack Mountain Club, who are focusing their efforts on getting children more comfortable and excited about being outdoors, while also teaching about the importance of an inclusive park.

As Environmental Studies seniors at Skidmore College, we are conducting qualitative research to better understand the diversity of public perceptions and the factors that might affect the disparity in safety, visitation rates, and inclusivity for Park visitors. Further, our research hopes to provide recommendations as to how the Adirondack Park can become a more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of ability level, age, race, ethnicity, and income.

Whether you frequent the Adirondack Park, have only visited a few times, or have just admired the mountains from afar, we hope you are willing to take our brief online survey so we can work towards creating a more inclusive park for everyone.

Thanks to our business partner Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company all respondents can be entered into a raffle for a chance to win a $50 gift card for outdoor gear.

Our survey can be found at www.tinyurl.com/ADKInclusivity

— Olivia Berson  Lucy Janovitz and Andres Durante

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Guest Contributor

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at [email protected]




45 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    Now on top of all the student loans racked up, while useless professors cash in, our universities are brainwashing our kids to believe “parks are racist.” How much money was wasted on this stupidity? Who paid for it? Why doesnt the article describe what the “racially charged incidents” are? Btw kids you wont get a job with your $100k degree but you will get to wander the park looking for “racial incidents.” Meanwhile the admin and tenured professors live in a gated “elites only” communities safe from the socialist policies they push on the rest of us.

  2. Zephyr says:

    And the first commenter drops in to spew hate, which might explain one reason some feel the Park is not the most inclusive. The Park is full of racist morons, and unfortunately I don’t think there is a lot that can be done about it other than shaming them if you live nearby. I for one will not spend any money in a town where I see the confederate flag tolerated.

    • Boreas says:

      Zephyr,

      The country is full of racists. The country is also full of liberals. Question is, do we really want to drive ANY citizens underground?? That was much of the reasoning behind the First Amendment – better to see what is festering rather than allowing it to fester unseen. I would rather my neighbors air their KKK hoods on the clothesline so that I know who I live next to.

      The same is true here on AA. I find much of what is said here repulsive and offensive, but at least I know who my online neighbors are. Much has come to light in the last 5 years. The festering isn’t new, it has simply become visible. Time is not a cure.

      • Zephyr says:

        The point of this survey is to figure out ways to make the Adirondack region more inclusive, and displays of racism will certainly not do that. The good citizens of the Adirondacks need to let their neighbors know that displaying signs of hate and racism are not welcome. Where I live if someone put up one of those flags they would have a hard time sleeping at night with the crowd outside exercising their first amendment rights to protest against hate and racism. Imagine what a person of color thinks about your community when they see a flag like that. Are they going to want to come back?

  3. Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

    Excellent job, both! I’ll pass the link around to friends. Can we publish the results of the research here?

    For my friends in the comments section, before you consider dunking on these students for getting a good education, know that 12 years on from a Skidmore education, if you’re not careful about avoiding “indoctrination” you might just end up gainfully employed, with an advanced degree, and a propensity to want to share your opinion in online forums…just like me! ??

    (Class of 09 here)

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Vanessa – Higher education is anathema to the lunatic fringe. It has to be vilified in order to please the rabble that support it. Change, introspection, a mile in the other shoes – none of these things can happen if they are to Keep America Great.

  4. Dorothy Parker says:

    Skidmore girls have no sin.
    Drink no whiskey, beer or gin.
    But, a few with morals loose,
    sit and sip tomato juice.

  5. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Very clever Dorothy. I got a good laugh on this one. Laughs good!

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Change, introspection, a mile in the other shoes – none of these things can happen if they are to Keep America Great.”

    >You’ve been educated properly I see Balian!

    “Keep America Great!”

    > Has anybody figured what is meant by this as yet?

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Of course we have, Charlie – It means an idealized post WWII America where everyone looked like Opie or Mickey Mantle, we took 57 Chevys to go get burgers and fries from broads on roller skates. Commies and people who were different kept quiet and in their lane or dogs and hoses came out. We could smoke on airplanes, dump our sewage in the rivers, and bathe in the cool mist of the DDT truck without a bunch of bookworms telling us it was bad. We liked Ike and if you had a problem with any of it, Senator McCarthy was going to find you and lock you up!

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “our research hopes to provide recommendations as to how the Adirondack Park can become a more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of ability level, age, race, ethnicity, and income.”

    Maybe they don’t wish to come to the park plain and simple. Not everyone can get away from dust and fumes you know, or noise. And there’s people who just dread the thought of a howling wilderness trust me! The park is open for all to enter. It’s not like there’s crowds floating signs saying ‘Keep Out such and such!’ We’ve had this conversation in the past. Be careful what you wish for is my thinking on this. Society is not like it used to be in them good old days when people were less complex than they are now, and keep in mind different cultures have different ways of doing things.

    I recall one year I was up in Blue Mountain Lake staying at the Blue Mountain Rest with my little girl and her mom (she’s not so little anymore by the way!) On this weekend the proprietor, Lenny I think his name was, rented the big cabin in the back to a large group from New York City, taxi drivers whose roots were India. They were up every night loud as could be this group, until almost daylight hours. Fine, but I was learnt by the proprietor that they made a large mess in that cabin he had discovered after they left to go back to the city. They tore up beds, used blankets and sheets for mats to sleep on…. I forget all what they did, but I do recall Lenny (?) wasn’t happy and it was my understanding it cost him a little bit that experience, and I’d be surprised if he ever had them back.

    This was probably just a fluke but it is what it was. Different cultures different mindsets. I was walking around the Horn in Blue Mountain Lake early one chilly morning some years back when I came upon an Asian tour bus parked near ‘The Ol’ Station.’ I saw, as I walked by, an Asian woman go up to the porta-john, and instead of going into it, she went aside it and did her thing which I thought odd. I also thought it may have had something to do with culture…theirs. I do not know.

    I am not suggesting anything on these above matters, I’m just saying.

    • Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

      Charlie you seem like a good chap so I’ll check in on this one. Taxi drivers from India, eh? Perhaps your friend had a weird experience. A gentle reminder that “non white people are just louder/messier than white people” is a trope, and not a very nice one.

      My husband is from India and we both share an intense love of hiking and wild places. India is a big place with wilderness unlike anything we have in America. Tigers! Wild elephants! Leeches!! Yikes the leeches will get you, and we know many outdoors enthusiasts braver than I who simply keep on hiking through leech country and pause every few minutes just to remove them!

      You can trek the beautiful lonely boulders of the Deccan plateau (ask Chris Sharma), the rainforests of the Western ghats, (highly recommended! Lovely homesteads suitable for Westerners, wish I could send a picture), or of course the absolute classic and what draws the most Americans – the Himalaya.

      Indian people love to hike and trek, and some of them tend to do it without a lot of access to Western gear. When he was but a plucky teenager, my husband trekked 50 miles in the Himalaya without a rain coat. Thought didn’t occur to him. I find most Indian folks to be tougher than the lot of us, and not particularly messier or louder.

      I’ve seen more Indian tourists in the ADKs in recent years, and often they seem a bit nervous. Let’s do our best to be welcoming, as there are millions of Indian immigrants in America. Especially in the Northeast, per https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Americans#Demographics

      • Lillian says:

        You make valid points, but couching them as “gentle reminders” is condescending and inflammatory. You are not conversing with children.

        • Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

          Hmm, 100% disagree here. I don’t think Charlie means badly by the story. That’s what I’m trying to communicate. I think it would be a lot more inflammatory to say, for example, “I’ve only ever heard that ‘brown people are dirty’ from racist jerks – is this what you mean to convey here?” – *that would NOT be a nice way to address the comment.

          …because that’s true – I’ve heard the “brown people are dirty” trope from a decent number of racist jerks. And worse. The story is probably NOT meant to invoke a racist stereotype, but the result could still be offensive. I’m choosing to give Charlie the benefit of the doubt, which is a good thing to do, and which is a lot less inflammatory than any alternative.

    • Patricia Jane says:

      Your point is a good one. The problem is attributing the behavior of one individual or group of individuals to an entire race, nationality, or ethnic group. As an American I lived and worked in northern Europe for two years and learned the various nuances of language and culture. Trust me onthis…but a busload of American tourists yelling at locals because they do not understand English or because they cannot find American conveniences can be just as damaging to the perception of Americans as the behavior you witnessed.

      Diversity is extremely important. We have a camp in the Adirondacks with all white (and very nice) neighbors. We live in a large city in Canada with neighbors from everywhere in the world..Sweden, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, the Philipines, the UK, China, and me the token American. When I see someone not of my ethnicity behaving oddly, I prevent myself from generalizing because I know someone personally of that ethnicity who does not behave like that.

      One final anecdote. I taught briefly in mainland China and learned that Chinese, at least then, tend to “clump” when waiting for anything. They didn’t line up in an orderly fashion. When I returned from China to Canada I visited Chinatown in my city and was struck by a group of Chinese waiting for the streetcar. They did not clump! They were lined up in a very orderly Bristish fashion.

      I’m only saying…

  8. Ed Zahniser says:

    Diversity is great. It would expand the base of supporters of the Adirondacks and “Forever Wild.” Would it be possible to build on past “Fresh Air Fund” participants to strengthen diversity?

  9. MOFYC says:

    All of NYS is subject to state policies, taxes and regulations. Why are some areas in the state doing better than others? It’s the areas that embrace diversity. NYC and its suburbs, Hudson Valley, Capital District and Saratoga County. The more diverse your population, the more diverse your labor pool and the more interested employers are in investing in your area. Diversity’s nothing to be scared of or to make you enraged. It’s about the most American color of them all: green.

    • Truth says:

      You must not live in the ADK’S. Finding workers is not the issue the true issue is the lack of work, and not to mention you literal have to travel an hour or 2 a day just to go to work a minimum wage job. The real thing you should be researching is why most small businesses in the ADK’S fail. Let’s not worry about tourism let’s help the people in these small dying towns littered across the entire northern part of ny.

  10. I would bet that if there was a spot in the park where people could ride atv”s , dirt bikes on trails with destinations it would bring in a more diverse group of people to the area. People want to be able to something besides walk or canoe.

  11. JT says:

    If we want to MAGA, then the ADK’s should make it clear Irish not welcome. Folks advertising for jobs make it clear Irish need not apply. Now those were the good ole days. Would be interesting to see if any of the folks displaying confederate flags may have a little Irish in them.
    My mother grew up in Lake Placid. When she was a teenager back in the 50’s she worked at a motel part time cleaning rooms, making beds. She said the people she worked for were the nicest people. But she remembered one time an African American couple stopped by for lodging and the owners refused to let them stay there. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is and is not racist.

  12. Tim-Brunswick says:

    How about this …all the white males get together and decide not to go to the Adirondacks this year….I mean it’s fairly obvious from the article that just by going to the Adirondacks, we’ve caused the other folks/genders to feel like they’re being discriminated against. I’m sure the Towns, Villages, businesses will do fine with everyone else coming in droves no doubt!!

    • Zephyr says:

      “Inclusive” means everyone, of any color, not just us old white farts. I welcome greater inclusivity and I am seeing more diverse people on the trails recently and in other outdoor areas not in the Adirondack Park. Great to see! The problem is not in the woods or on the water, it is on the roads and in the towns.

  13. Jay says:

    So I have been attempting to get my black friends and family to go into the mountains(including ADK) for many years. They pretty much just laugh at me unfortunately. That’s fine though we accept eachother as we are. But so glad we have liberals to attempt to force people to do what they think they should be doing.

  14. Mick Finn says:

    The worst mistake in the history of our nation was bringing African slaves here!

  15. Truth says:

    You must not live in the ADK’S. Finding workers is not the issue the true issue is the lack of work, and not to mention you literal have to travel an hour or 2 a day just to go to work a minimum wage job. The real thing you should be researching is why most small businesses in the ADK’S fail. Let’s not worry about tourism let’s help the people in these small dying towns littered across the entire northern part of ny.

  16. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The worst mistake in the history of our nation was bringing African slaves here!”

    Why is that Mick?

    • Mick Finn says:

      The more important question is, what do you think about the comment?

      • Charlie Stehlin says:

        Maybe I’m reading it wrong! I was, immediately upon reading it, under the impression there was bias flowing in the words. If I’m wrong which I probably am…I apologize for that. I think in a twisted way sometimes. Years of being overwhelmed with all there is has done that to me.

  17. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Diversity “is” good no doubt Ed & MOFYC! To think what things would be like here without it!

  18. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “…racially-targeted incidents, such as racist graffiti, have occurred in the Adirondack park. One of these occurrences targeted a regular park visitor, a Black woman who lives near the area.”

    I remember this! Ignorance is everywhere, it knows no bounds. People aren’t born racist it’s a learned trait.

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie,

      I agree, but personally would state that a little differently. I don’t believe racism is something that is simply learned throughout life. I believe racism and religious intolerance are often passively passed from parent to child at an early age. I believe much of this learning happens as a pre-schooler, and usually becomes quite hard-wired early on. Parents may simply avoid being around different races and religions and never speak ill of them. Kids absorb this behavior like a sponge. They may not know why their parents behave this way, but it is behavior they will learn nonetheless – usually without questioning. Then, with these ingrained, imprinted behaviors, early life experiences often reinforce them due to our tendency to hang around people similar to ourselves.

      Political and socioeconomic pressures often cause these behaviors and beliefs to boil to the surface from time to time. But whether on display or suppressed, I don’t know if it is possible for intolerance to be eliminated. Even if we profess to be actively tolerant of others, is this just another behavioral smokescreen that can change when extreme political, socioeconomic, or other stresses come to bear?

  19. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “I believe racism and religious intolerance are often passively passed from parent to child at an early age.”

    I find your comment interesting Boreas. What immediately comes to mind is that mass shooting down in Orlando, Fl. some few years ago at the gay nightclub. I recall hearing a report whose speaker stated that that shooter’s parents practiced Islam as their religion, which deems the gay lifestyle as taboo, sinful. And though the shooter’s parents did not condone their son’s violence, the religion they practiced is what most likely fed his distorted mind, which led him to kill fifty innocent people!

    I don’t think children should be conditioned into their parent’s religious beliefs, they should be allowed to grow up and decide for themselves which course they choose to take. I used to work for a man down in Florida many years ago who came off as a devout Christian. This guy had issues I saw from day one. Not a nice person, skimped out on his work, or not a craftsman….just there to work, get it done, and make his money. I was better than that as I was always into quality. He didn’t like that I was slow because my desire was to do the job right. So we didn’t hit it off too well and I did not for him for long…..

    In the meanwhile I met his teen daughter and two sons on occasion as he would bring them to a job site briefly. Beautiful children! Good kids I could tell, but they never said much, had no personality, this and that, overly quiet, couldn’t get them to laugh, etc… as if they were brainwashed by mom and dad’s religion. I’ll never forget that, it stays with me to this day! Poor kids! This is what happens when subjected to
    ultra-conservative religious beliefs! I’m not religious and you don’t have to be to be a good person!

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie,

      Yes, I have known numerous people whose religious indoctrination at an early age created deep-seated intolerance. My catholic mother was kicked out of her religion when she married my protestant father. If she had gone the full route of a Catholic education, she likely wouldn’t have considered marrying him. Luckily, she attended public school in the Pittsburgh area.

      I was also bitten badly by the same intolerance when a potential spouse of mine, a very sweet and delightful, deeply anti-semitic, middle-class, practicing Irish Catholic young woman from Far Rockaway who would not allow me to meet her parents. We finally broke up because I (raised Protestant) refused to convert to practicing Catholicism.

      Intolerance and prejudice has always been all around us. I don’t see this ever changing. Occasionally outspoken groups make the news for a while trying to change things. But it isn’t something you can’t legislate, or shame people into changing their Id. How we view ourselves often dictates our behavior.

      “Teach your children well…”

      • JohnL says:

        Since you all seem to be bashing Catholics/Christians based on a few anecdotal incidents, let me weigh in on on the other side. When I got married, the old schooll Ukrainian/American Catholic Monsignor not only married me (like you, Boreas, raised Protestant) and my Catholic wife, but I was given communion as part of the service. So, score one for Catholicism and Christianity.

  20. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Hi Boreas….. I don’t mean to knock anybody’s religion, or to tell anybody how to raise their kids regards religion. I write too fast sometimes and send things out quick. I’m on borrowed time on a computer is why…..sometimes why.

    I’ve done work for, and know, people who practice their forms of Christianity, or whatever their religion is, and from this I know there are some very nice people out there who practice their religions, and while doing so have raised some very good children….and they are even open-minded to boot, or moreso open than I would have guessed. I know many good people that follow their religions, and I know many good people that don’t follow any religion….all good!

    As I said, you don’t have to practice religion to be a good person. You know that! Matter of fact, some of the biggest hypocrites are those who profess to be Christians, many of whom are running this country. I saw ‘ruining’ after I wrote running and I suppose there’s a correlation. Some people give their professed religion a bad name, often in the name of furthering a selfish end, whether that is to gain power or whatnot. We saw extreme examples of this these past four years.

    “Intolerance and prejudice has always been all around us.”

    >Yeah but some people have things down pat, they find balance and are disciplined well enough to make things work out and to get along. I know couples that are total opposites regards their political views and have the best relationships ever. How they do it is beyond me but they do it. I suppose we’re all here to keep learning…or me to keep learning…because it’s either learn or burn.

    There’s more to the story about that person I worked for in Florida. He tried to kill me once. There was a short in the 220 volt cord he (or I) was using, the cord being a hundred feet long at least. He told me to fix it which I knew how to do. I don’t trust electricity, was always wary of it, and the only electricity I ever messed with was what I had to use for my business, which required going into and tinkering with the control panel, or the hot box, in houses. I asked that boss if the power was turned off and he said it was. Me not trusting electricity, I walked over to the box to make sure to find the switch was still on. He lied to me and if I would have taken his word I would have been fried soon as I touched those open wires way back then. I think he thought I was the devil….is how deep he was ‘in’ with his Christian faith. I am known to be different (in a good way of course) and I suppose my difference was too much for him, close-minded that he was, and so he tried to kill me, or his God, or little gremlins in his head, thought it best I be dead! I can never prove this but there it is.

    Tolerance is sometimes having to be patient and disciplined and respectful of others, but never does it mean that we should put our guard down!

  21. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Those of us who have more than half our wits about us Boreas! Oftentimes it’s as plain as day to see! Who you and me may see as the devil incarnate, others see as a God, which only means that some of us, though we may have good eyesight, are blind. Life is very strange to say the least.

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