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Can We Market Our Adirondack Spirit?

August 27, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Say what?

Are you kidding me – market our Adirondack spirit!?

I know what you may be thinking: we must be one of the most divisive people in the world fueled by the divisiveness of how we are governed and regulated.

“Balkanization” of the Adirondacks

Our issues are often talked about in terms of the “Balkanization” of the Adirondacks – referring to our cumbersome quilt of overlapping local and state jurisdictions. Or, is it really pointing to allegiances: how the assassination of an obscure prince evolved into World War I symbolic of sides already taken because of alliances and points of view, though few really knew the prince or the issues at hand.

In other words they were looking for a fight and just waiting for an excuse.

Does this sound like much of the debate in the Adirondacks? Are we really certain we are being told what the issues are or do “alliances” pick a fight to justify their cause – and their fundraising?

Like our land and those that govern us, we are such a mix bag of people: seasonal residents, folks that have lived here for generations, “newbies” who are sometimes accused of being liberal or conservatives who are perceived as saying no to everything. There are business people who some think complain about everything, environmentalists and developers that represent the Adirondack version of Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.

And then you have the wealthy, those that make a living here and the black cloud of Voldemort: those powerful interests that you sense are out there but you are not quite sure who they are or what they really represent.

Compromise or a 3rd Option?

Do we become so arrogantly fused to a side that sometimes we lose sight of the real issue with seemingly no hope of compromise whether it is the rails or trails or a sand shed? Is the real issue whether to tear up the tracks or - how we can work together to increase the number of people to recreate? How you address issues can bring about very different results, partners – and solutions.

And boy, are we good at spewing out views. In the age of reviews and “friends” have we forgotten the principles that made this country great: working together and receptive to other people’s views?

Somewhere along the line has this discourse became confused with “compromise" ?

No one wants to give in to something less, and it seems so negative.

If we look at some of these issues with the intent of creating something greater - a 3rd option – does it give us the sense we are creating something more – not less?

Fighting over What?

Sometimes doesn’t it seem we get lost in what shouldn't be an issue? When you think about what our forefather‘s went through: to change a whole political system or to decide whether to fight to keep the Union alive, a Great Depression and one too many wars. Is really the acidic tone and debate necessary? Are we just an angry people too long exposed to the Great Woods and what William James Stillman called “the woods madness"?

Yet, as crazy as it may sound - Can all of this craziness and divisiveness be channeled into something we can market?


I think we have something so unique here, that we can send a message out to the world – and it is something that is right under our nose. It will not take a huge investment, we don’t have to build a huge infrastructure and it can fit anywhere in the Adirondack Park.

Can we market the Adirondack spirit?

An Adirondack “terroir”?

When you drink wine, you often hear of how the “terroir” of a region makes that wine unique and special. Burgundy, Bordeaux, Napa all claim to have special “terroirs” and when you think of these regions, wine is often the first thing that comes to mind.

They have successfully created a brand.

Other communities when you hear their names, an immediate “brand” comes to mind like Woodstock for music and Costa Rica for sustainable tourism.

The Adirondacks also have a unique “terroir” or “spirit” that is a combination of its natural wonderment, history, people, economy, architecture and its wide ranging arts.

The one commonality that all have shared when they have come here is that they have been inspired.

Can “inspiration” be one of the brands of the Adirondacks?

Unlike many other regions that attracted one kind of personality like the gold diggers out west or the missionaries, the Adirondacks have always called to a unique sense of diversity. Yes, the pioneers and explorers came here, but the Adirondack’s proximity to the populated areas of Boston and New York City in the 1800’s also drew a diverse crowd.

Its natural canvas of wonders have attracted a unique diverse human habitat including artists, healers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts among others. Some came to preserve, some to develop, others to recreate and still others came to heal. Whatever the reason, one common theme that held them all together is that they were inspired by our mountains.

Have these different human and natural habitats over time combined to create a unique Adirondack calling card? Can this be seen by unique natural features, architecture, history, culture and economy? Many were inspired by the Adirondacks ranging from the 1858 Philosopher’s Camp of Emerson and Stillman to Theodore Roosevelt.

One of the United States oldest preserves with the creation of “forever wild” lands in 1892, the Adirondacks has been called the “great experiment of man and nature. Does this unique matrix that is both wonderment and vexing, provide a natural backdrop to be inspired?

Like Napa Valley has done with wine and Costa Rica for sustainable tourism, can we brand the Adirondacks as a center for inspiration?

A Dream

A European economist living in a remote rural mountain region in Switzerland much like ours, had the idea following World War II, to get a few other folks together to talk about the world economy. The community these talks took place in had less than 500 people.

These visionary discussions grew to the World Economic Summit.

Imagine the Adirondacks as the center for inspiration: a vision where our hallowed Great Woods once again calls to world renowned creative artists, healers and entrepreneurs to become inspired by the Adirondacks as Einstein did as they contemplated the issues of their time. It has a sense of place where they are drawn to the energy of the Adirondack spirit to explore the issues of our time and to create an inspirational future.

We have something special here and despite, or because of, our differences, I believe we have a unique sense of place that has always called out to folks. Perhaps we can take advantage of this historical spirit to brand the Adirondacks as a place to be inspired.

Interested? Let me know and perhaps together we can create a fun and perhaps someday important new twist to this place we call the Adirondack “terroir.”


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