Camp Chingachgook in Fort Ann hosted a diversity, equity and inclusion panel on Friday evening providing interesting perspectives and discussion. The evening was sponsored by the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Next Generation Committee. The panel included Raul “Rocci” Aguirre, acting executive director of the Adirondack Council; Martha Swan, executive director and founder of John Brown Lives; Tiffany Rea-Fisher, director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative; and Pete Nelson, co-founder of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.
It was one of the first public appearances for Rea-Fisher in her new role and one of the first for Aguirre since Willie Janeway announced he was stepping down.
The panel was asked a number of questions, leading with one about how social justice, equity and inclusion can plan a role in conservation and protecting natural resources. Rea-Fisher said other things need to be addressed first. She doesn’t come home to her house in Saranac Lake, for example, without doing a quick scan to see if there is any graffiti. Multiple generations of her family has experienced vandalism in some way. We haven’t even made it to the trailhead, she said, when it comes to discussing access and safety in the Adirondacks.
Rea-Fisher also addressed a common way many Adirondack Park advocates describe the number of visitors on popular trails using the word “overuse.” When she hears that word, she said, she believes, “oh, they don’t want me on the trail. It immediately feels like you don’t want me because of systemic racism, because of economic issues,” and many other reasons. Whether or not that’s the case, she said, “everything is coded constantly, and I’m having to sift through so much to understand what you’re actually saying. It’s really, very, very challenging to come into every conversation head and heart open.”
It’s an interesting thought about language, and something the Adirondack Explorer has discussed in its own coverage. Last year I spoke with NCPR’s Emily Russell about it: https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/45863/20220513/the-adirondacks-need-to-diversify-but-are-words-like-overcrowding-keeping-people-away.
Photo at top: About three dozen people attended a panel about diversity, equity and inclusion on Friday, March 10, 2023 at Camp Chingachgook in Fort Ann. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig
This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.