A recent national survey conducted by OutdoorIndustry.org reveals that people who regularly recreate outdoors, and those who have participated in outdoor recreation while growing up, are more likely than all others to be completely satisfied with their lives.
The results of the study are quite obvious to most local residents. I expect the majority of locals chose to settle in the Adirondacks primarily for the quality of life. Due to the seasonal swings of a tourism based economy, the Adirondack region is not really a location that provides vast economic opportunity. In plain language, folks don't move here expecting to strike it rich.
Typically, newcomers arrive seeking a better quality of life in a place where the pace is slower, the neighbors are friendlier and the opportunity for regular outdoor recreation is abundant.
Outdoor industry researchers indicate those who recreate most often are more likely to be completely satisfied with their choice of careers, friends and their perceived success in life. The results of the study are obvious. Simply ask any outdoor enthusiast about their day, and the vast majority of them will answer in the affirmative.
Any day spent outdoors is a positive, even in foul weather. Most Adirondackers would prefer to spend an afternoon paddling a pond, climbing a peak or skiing a mountain trail, rather than sit in an office or work in a factory. That is usually the reason they settle here.
The Adirondack region may not offer the best paying jobs, but it has an outstanding recreational infrastructure and a great quality of life. If we provide our children with the skills and knowledge necessary to positively enjoy their surroundings, the lure of negative pursuits such as vandalism and substance abuse may not appear so enticing.
There is nothing more dangerous to themselves or others than bored kids. They need outlets for their energies. If positive recreational pursuits aren't available, they will discover opportunities for negative recreation pursuits.
Unfortunately for a majority of the country's population, outdoor recreation and wilderness travel are no longer considered a normal part of everyday life. There are certain skills that they must learn in order to ensure safe travel outside. While most regular outdoor travelers understand the nuances of common sense, courtesy and treating others as they would wish to be treated, a similar understanding cannot always be expected.
Despite such realities, buried deep inside nearly everyone there lies an untapped desire to pursue the pleasures and challenges that outdoor adventures provide. And there are certain unwritten rules governing the behavior of outdoor travelers that every enthusiast should observe. These rules of the road have been adapted to cover a wide variety of outdoor pursuits, from ski trails to hiking trails, raging rivers to placid stillwaters, and from the soaring cliffs to the imposing darkness of unexplored caves.
In nearly every case, proper outdoor etiquette requires an understanding of the formal rules of conduct to insure that no one is offended. However, when applied to activities such as hunting, whitewater paddling and rock or ice climbing, the strict adherence to established travel etiquette and camp procedures is more than a simple courtesy. Often it is necessary to protect life and limb.
Most of the rules are just common sense guidelines to deal with issues such as travel behavior, minimum impact camping techniques, fire safety, animal encounters and cleanliness or sanitation concerns.
Although it is often expected that travelers know how to behave in the woods, it is not always the case. Respect for the environment is an acquired trait, as is trail behavior. Children learn these things through observation and modeling. If parents speak in low tones and take the time to appreciate the natural environment, their children will exhibit similar respect.
Most outdoor enthusiasts understand the need to protect recreational resources, and as a result they are often willing to spend their time restoring, enhancing and conserving natural resources for the benefit of all.
One of the most pressing issues in the process of instilling the concept of outdoor etiquette is the availability of experienced mentors. More than 95 percent of all outdoor travelers surveyed indicated they continue to enjoy the outdoors because "someone" took the time to introduce them to outdoor sports.
Indeed, the pinnacle of a proper outdoor career is only considered complete after a participant has achieved the accomplishment of mentoring at least one novice to the rank of an experienced outdoor traveler.
Healthy living from a young age
It has been well established that a majority of outdoor enthusiasts were raised in a household where outdoor recreation was a cherished family value. The common refrain that it "takes a sportsman to make a sportsman" is very true.
Unfortunately, as the nation's population grows increasingly urbanized, there are fewer and fewer outdoor mentors available, which is truly a cause for concern. Additionally, the breakdown of traditional families and single-parent homes have rapidly changed the dynamics of how children are introduced to traditional outdoor pursuits.
Fortunately, many children are now learning it from their gym teachers. At the Lake Placid Central School, students receive instruction in archery, fly fishing, mountain biking and more.
In Tupper Lake, students have opportunities to learn land navigation skills while using GPS units, and they can cross-country ski or snowshoe from the school's playground onto the nearby nature trails.
At Keene Valley Central, students must participate in an overnight camping trip and document a climb up a High Peak as a requirement for graduation. It appears many of the local educators are on the right track.
Recently, I discovered our lawmakers have also been making progress in this regard. In fact, there is currently a novel state initiative that offers great promise. The effort, advanced by New York State Assemblyman William Barclay, comes in the form of Assembly Bill Number A4345.
Barclay chairs the Assembly Minority Hunting and Fishing Task Force, and hailing from Pulaski, he likely understands the benefits of outdoor recreation especially as it relates to rural youth.
The Assembly bill reads: "An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to hunting, fishing and outdoor education in high school physical education course. The purpose of this legislation is to promote hunting, fishing and outdoor activities in an educational capacity."
If enacted, the bill will amend S3-0301 of the Environmental Conservation Law by requiring the state Department of Environmental Conservation to develop an educational program for grades nine through 12, regarding types of fish that can be caught, game sought and other information necessary for implementing an angling education program.
Justification for the bill indicates: "Recent studies have pointed out that more and more children are becoming more and more obese due to their lack of activity and distorted eating habits. In order to change this situation and develop healthier children, it is essential that they become more aware of opportunities that exist for them."
To support this, it is essential that children become aware of the benefits that can be seen in hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. With the vast resources available throughout New York, children will be able to engage in various activities that lead to healthier lifestyles.
Creating a healthier lifestyle is beneficial, however, it is not the only benefit that will be seen. One of the other significant benefits recognized is the creation of a link to the history and development of our state. Various regions of the state have significant cultural links to outdoor activities. Providing education in the classroom will teach children about these links and how the activities have created the culture.
In addition to creating healthier lifestyles and providing insight into the cultural significance of an area and its activities, providing education in the classroom will also lead to placing hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation in a positive light.