The Park’s Demographic Challenge

As we read about the way that America’s changing demographics played such a big role in the recent elections, we are reminded of the shifting demographics of New York State and the potential problems it might present to the future of the Park.  The people who live in the Park and the people who visit the Park are largely Caucasian.  But the State of New York and America as a whole is heading toward a day when Caucasians will be less than half of its citizens.  Already there are more non-white babies being born in the State than white.

During the Futures workshops, this issue was one that concerned a lot of people.  With more and more people living and growing up in the big cities, fewer young people are being exposed to nature and even fewer to something like wilderness.  We’ve seen people from the big city come to the mountains and be freaked out by the emptiness and quiet rather than rejuvenated by this natural environment.

The main concern is that the next generation of voters will not be as fully supportive of the Park and its costs to the tax payers.  Also, that the ranks of the environmental movement will be depleted as the boomers pass away.  You can see it with the big land owners in the region who are aging and whose next generation is far less interested in this place than their parents.

Like the Republican Party, we are likely to respond to these changes too little and too late.  Responding means changing the way that we promote and brand the Park to make sure it is multicultural and diverse in its messages and images.  More importantly, it means making an appreciation of nature and the environment an integral part of educating our youth throughout the State.  The NYS Museum in Albany is a critical venue for educating future visitors and supporters of the Park.  Tens of thousands of students come through it every year from all over the State.  The museum is looking to redesign its badly outdated Adirondack displays and we are hoping to work with them to portray the truly amazing environmental achievement we have created in the Adirondack Park, and to make clear that it is something our next generation should be very proud of.

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