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The Child and Nature Network

I've recently returned from the National Grassroots Gathering hosted by the Child and Nature Network in Keystone, Colo. The National Grassroots Gathering brought together leaders from across the country to build a connection between children and nature.

Under the heading of Making Connections, participants offered suggestions on advancing efforts to reconnect children and nature through research, policy makers, community, media, social networks and the medical profession. The Child and Nature Network is working to build a movement that will bring cultural change and restore the connection between children and the outdoors.

The setting for the conference, which was located in the ski town of Keystone, Colo. was spectacular and the problems facing the small, resort community were significant. It was easy to draw parallels from west to east, as many of the state's seasonal, resort communities are currently facing dilemmas similar to our own.

Residents spoke of concerns with issues of affordable housing, transportation woes and inconsistencies of seasonal employment. Many locals voiced sentiments that revolved around the same "locals versus outsiders" debate that continues to plague many resort communities. It is a common refrain, whether voiced from a coastal community in Maine, a mountain town in the Adirondacks or a high desert resort in Arizona.

The common thread that binds many of these small, communities is a seasonal influx of visitors and the ongoing struggle to retain the character and charm of their community in the face of development pressures and the difficulties of earning a living in a seasonal economy.

Residents of these communities often express a desire to retain the charm and character of their small towns, yet they recognize the need for economic development. They often share the same dilemma: "At what point does the continued development of tourist infrastructure overshadow a sense of community?"

It is a question that is currently being asked from Tupper Lake to North Creek to Lake Placid and in many places beyond.

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