First-ever Adirondack diversity symposium Aug. 16

NEWCOMB – Civil rights leaders, community activists, social scientists and organizations will get together here next week to discuss the need to broaden diversity in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender-identity among the Adirondack Park’s residents and visitors.

A symposium entitled “Towards a More Diverse Adirondacks” will feature an entire day of discussion about the challenges to, and opportunities for, widening the pool of people who use, enjoy and care about the future of the Park.

The day-long event is slated for Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Adirondack Interpretive Center at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Newcomb, according to a press release issued by the Adirondack Council, an environmental advocacy group.

Participants will include social-justice activist, Adirondack native and seasonal resident Alice P. Green of Albany; Capital District outdoor educator Brother Yusuf Burgess; corporate diversity educator Brian McNaught; teacher, writer and social activist Pete Nelson; multicultural travel writer/blogger Carol Cain; and representatives from a variety of nonprofit Adirondack organizations.

Keynote speaker Amy Godine will discuss how historic accounts of life in the Park have affected its diversity as well as public perceptions of who belongs here.

The Adirondack Park’s year-round population is fewer than 135,000 people, or about one-quarter of Vermont’s. More than 90 percent of the Park’s population is white, as are a vast majority of visitors.

“Whether your primary interest is in the Adirondack Park’s wild places or its rural communities, we need to broaden and diversify the group of people who care about this place,” said Nelson. “The racial and ethnic make-up of New York and the nation are changing much more rapidly than rural areas like the Adirondack Park. If the Park’s base of support doesn’t change with the rest of New York, public attention and money will go elsewhere.”

“In our reality of climate change and growing cities, it is important that our inner-city youth have an opportunity to bond with the natural world to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds,” said Burgess, director of the Youth Ed-Venture & Nature Network and a board member of John Brown Lives!

Registration for the symposium costs $20. Participants can register online at www.esf.edu/nfi/diversity/symposium.htm, by phone via the Adirondack Interpretive Center at 518-582-2000, or by email at aic@esf.edu. The registration fee includes lunch and a reception at 5 p.m.