Nature has a way of building bridges between people. Shared adventures and interests result in an unrivaled commonality. Most encouraging were the number of kids, ranging from just above knee high to teenagers.
Recent studies have revealed that many North American children spend more time in front of computers screens, playing video games or watching television than they do playing and exploring in the natural environment and according to the National Sporting Goods Association, since 1995, the number of kids swimming and fishing has declined by more than 20 percent and bike riding is down 31 percent. It has been estimated that in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages nine to thirteen play outside on their own.
You couldnt prove it by this crowd of kids; their enthusiasm was infectious. They are the faces of the future of the park.
While I consider myself a conservationist; Im also a preservationist, but not in the common sense of the word. Ive always believed it to describe preserving a way of life, the heritage of our common sporting traditions.
I grew up in Elizabethtown enjoying the life of a small town kid in the outdoors and I hope to preserve that opportunity for future generations. Endless entertainment was as simple as a bicycle, a can of worms and a Zebco rod and reel. The addition of a slingshot or BB gun was merely a bonus!
However, the world surrounding the North Woods is growing rapidly and the plethora of potential threats extend well beyond any perimeters we had possibly imagined in our youth.
Our children will be faced with new patterns of ownership, the complexities of conservation easements, the threat of climate change, invasive species and diseases and shifting demographics of ownership and use. Consider that Hamilton County has the highest percentage of second homeowners in the entire nation and that 98 percent of its land is owned by New York State. There is little opportunity or incentive for kids to stay after high school. We are just starting to see the effects of these impacts, as numerous small towns struggle to survive. Although our communities are one of the most resilient aspects of the landscape, some small towns have experienced the loss of local gas stations, pharmacies and department stores. Battles over a proposed Wal-Mart in recent years have fractured the communities of both Lake Placid and Saranac Lake and the resulting divisions exposed growing class and economic distinctions fostering a us vs themmentality.