Imagining a More Diverse Adirondack Park
by Elizabeth Folwell
When Adirondack Almanack blogger Pete Nelson spoke with Dominican–Puerto Rican travel writer Carol Cain she told him, “The lack of diversity doesn’t surprise me at all, even in more popular places such as Lake Placid. But I have never had a negative experience. The lack of diversity is the same in other regions, like, say, the Catskills. But I have found that the closer one is to a major city, the less that is the case. I can go an entire weekend in the mountains anywhere in America and never see a person of color.”
On Saturday, August 16, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Newcomb campus of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY–ESF), Nelson, Cain, Adirondack Futures founders Jim Mason and Dave Herman, Alice Paden Green, Brother Yusef, Newcomb school superintendent Skip Hults and the Adirondack Interpretive Center‘s Paul Hai join to discuss diversity in this predominantly white region. Nelson, who organized the event, has written several blogs for the Almanack about the topic.
“Diversity in the Adirondacks is an under-the-radar issue even though it is arguably the most important issue facing the future of the park,” Nelson says. “Many stakeholders recognize that human diversity—my new descriptor, for indeed the issue is bigger than just racial or socioeconomic problems—is just as important to the Adirondacks as plant and animal diversity is to a healthy Forest Preserve.
“From my own experience I was deeply concerned about this human diversity gap. A larger conversation started and this symposium was the result. To focus our thinking, I developed a statement of purpose: In comparison to a rapidly changing New York State the Adirondack region suffers a lack of diversity in both its permanent population and its visitor population. This growing diversity gap represents a bi-directional problem. On the one hand it threatens the well-being of the Adirondack park because a predominantly urban and non-white population may not see the park as relevant and therefore may fail to adequately protect it. On the other hand it affects the well-being of those very populations because they have little opportunity to experience the myriad benefits the park offers.”
Adirondack Life contributor Amy Godine is keynote speaker. She asks, “How can we widen and deepen the conversation about diversity beyond the usual suspects? What can their examples teach us and challenge our assumptions about diversity? How can we use the past to invigorate our vision of diversity today?” Her address reviews responses to Adirondack diversity—ethnic, racial and economic—and invokes three figures from the back pages of our history. “The 19th-century land baron and philanthropist Gerrit Smith, the progressive environmentalist Robert Marshall, and the journalist and lay social historian Marjorie Lansing Porter all promoted a deeper, more inclusive understanding of diversity, with value for our time.”
For more information and to register for this all-day symposium, visit the SUNY–ESF website.