About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen covers environmental policy in the Adirondacks. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter, @gwendolynnn1.

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Comments

  1. louis curth says

    On this June 20th, Adirondackers of all stripes might consider using this new Juneteenth holiday as a time to pause and reflect upon our own widely diverse family backgrounds.

    It could also be a time to recall the people and/or events that first led us, whether as visitors or residents, to become part of this Adirondack – north country community that is so special to all of us. “…Adirondacks for all.”

  2. JB says

    Thank you for a thought-provoking introduction to some of the important discussions surrounding access, but it could benefit from some more context.

    First, we need to be careful not to conflate the complicated issues of “overuse” and equitable access. While there may be an argument here that management steps to address overuse in the Adirondack Park could potentially exacerbate access disparities, this argument takes an overly narrow view of the problem. More than likely, those most affected by and opposed to measures to address overuse on Forest Preserve will be users with relatively privileged access, not those who have been systematically excluded. Given that the true cost of overuse of common pool resources is borne by all potential future users, it seems obvious that measures to prevent overuse will be an integral part of any effective strategy going forward for ensuring fair and equal access.

    As to concerns that the term “overuse” unfairly vilifies visitors, this is an understandable messaging concern for journalists, educators, and public-facing officials. However, messaging strategies that dispense with terms like “overuse” are apt to exacerbate problems on the ground unless robust management strategies for regulating use are already in place (arguably, this has already occured in many places). Instead of shifting the conversation away from overuse with unequivocally positive messaging (tempered only by a focus on an inevitably arbitrary set of backcountry ethics), a more reasonable and equitable course of action would be to continue to acknowledge the realities and risks of overuse while placing the onus on management agencies, not civilians, when they fail to provide visitors with the necessary tools for responsible collective use.

    Second, there is an important but often overlooked reason that terms like “overuse” are used frequently when discussing Park policy. Concepts like “carrying capacity” and “overuse” are core aspects of the legal and philosophical underpinnings for the Adirondack Park, with many instances of these terms occurring verbatim in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. In fact, according to the APSLMP definition, Wilderness Areas must not only be managed for “capacity to withstand use”, but they should provide “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation”. Unlike managers elsewhere, policymakers and managers for the Adirondack Park have a legally enshrined duty to uphold a unique system of qualitative standards. For many, this is precisely what has made the Park so desirable.

    Third, while it is well worth pointing out that experts have come to acknowledge that terms like “carrying capacity” bring with them a certain level of subjectivity — hence, terms like “limits of acceptable change” are now preferred instead — most will agree that these are not entirely unnecessary concepts, nor are they entirely subjective. Any policy that conserves land — the Adirondack Park Act included — must inherently recognize that unrestricted use will degrade protected resources. In the extreme, then, arguments against access restriction are essentially de facto arguments against conservation, whether those arguments are made to advance economic, political, recreational, or social justice agendas.

    And finally, while there are sensible arguments to be made that conservation strategies can foster unhealthy and inequitable attitudes towards land use, prevailing arguments against recreational access restriction for Forest Preserve steadfastly perpetuate, rather than seeking to redress, the types of social problems typically associated with conservation practices. The Adirondack Park Act, with its well-reasoned limitations on levels of use, was drafted specifically with these pitfalls in mind. But, unsurprisingly, even the best conservation policy cannot stand on its own in addressing economic and social problems. There needs to be a holistic suite of complementary policies and incentives. Aaron Mair’s vision for the Timbuctoo Institute exemplifies this well: rather than perpetuating the status quo by focusing merely on unrestricted recreational access, it would be more productive to advocate for a paradigm shift — whereby access can be transformed into something simultaneously experiential, economic, educational, and just.

    • JB says

      Thank you, Boreas. But after reading Gwen’s newsletter and re-reading my own comment, it strikes me that it seems very much like I’m attacking Gwen’s journalism. Not my intention at all! This article waded very bravely into some very deep and murky waters.

      For every organization or scholar that argues against recreational “carrying capacity” — and in the Adirondack Park we have many such organizations, to which my criticisms are directed — there are tourism and recreation scholars fighting vehemently against them. My intention was to draw attention to this side of the debate, which, I often forget, can seem very brutal from the outside! I apologize if that was unclear! I’ve put together a list of a few papers that have influenced me below.

      Butler, Richard W. “The concept of a tourist area cycle of evolution: implications for management of resources.” Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien 24.1 (1980): 5-12.
      Butler, Richard W. “The concept of carrying capacity for tourism destinations: dead or merely buried?.” Progress in tourism and hospitality research 2.3‐4 (1996): 283-293.
      Morton Turner, James. “From woodcraft to ‘Leave No Trace’: Wilderness, consumerism, and environmentalism in twentieth-century America.” Environmental History 7.3 (2002): 462-484.
      Rickly, Jillian M., and Elizabeth S. Vidon. “Contesting authentic practice and ethical authority in adventure tourism.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 25.10 (2017): 1418-1433.
      Wheeller, Brian. “Sustaining the ego.” Journal of sustainable tourism 1.2 (1993): 121-129.

  3. Zephyr says

    The current AMR parking/hiking reservation system prevents hiking by those who can’t make plans for their days off weeks or months in advance, meaning many younger people. Inevitably every weekend day is booked, which is a further deterrent to those who only get weekend days off occasionally. Furthermore, the shuttle buses don’t go there, so you have to drive and walk-ins are not allowed if you can get a ride to the trailhead. Of course, local residents and members of the very exclusive club get unlimited access. The AMR hiking prevention system is a posterchild for how to limit use to only the most privileged.

  4. Lawrence Van Garrett says

    I would have liked to have seen the article talk more about “the dual benefit of beginning to address the systemic issues of access to the Adirondack Park from an equity and justice perspective,” according to a description of the project.“
    It does seem like this article leans in a way to say that there is a “system” in place to prevent “everyone” from having access to the ADK. The “great” state of NY is filled with more than just two races. I hope that the equity and diversity initiatives that are being discussed involves all of them.

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