A recent Williams College graduate has designed a multi-media “StoryMap” that explains the overuse issues facing the Adirondack Park in simple terms, using interactive maps, info-graphics, video, audio clips, and viewer-manipulated photographs.
“This is a tremendously easy and entertaining way to understand what is at stake when too many people crowd into the Adirondack Park’s most popular destinations,” said Adirondack Council Communications Director John F. Sheehan. “Everything you could hope to know about the problem –how it started, where it is worst, how to fix it –are all explained. You can examine the facts you care about most in minute detail, or breeze through the entire presentation like it was a movie.”
Sheehan said the creative master behind the work was Julia Randall of Albany, who designed it as a special project, following her successful post-graduate internship in the Council’s Elizabethtown office. Randall is currently a writing tutor and essay coach. She studied English, environmental science and music at Williams.
“Overuse and poorly designed trails are causing harm to water quality, wildlife and forest health all over the Adirondack Park,” said Adirondack Council Vision 2050 Director Julia Goren, who worked with Randall. “It’s hard for a newspaper or television news item to convey the full extent of the problem and its effects. The StoryMap helps the audience understand this complex issue on a visceral level. Julia’s work is a really effective way to understand the many facets of this issue.”
The StoryMap can be found on the Adirondack Council’s website.
“Like climate change, overuse is really difficult to explain and understand — it’s a complicated, multifaceted issue happening in slow-motion over decades,” said Randall. “Although there’s physical evidence proving its existence, some people don’t believe in it or refuse to acknowledge that it’s an issue. The overuse conversation also raises some pretty big questions — what should wilderness be? To ensure that everyone can enjoy it, do we have to limit access to it? With this StoryMap, I wanted to show that the conversation on overuse must be data-driven.”
The StoryMap is part of the Council’s 2050 Vision project, which involves comprehensive planning to set a pace for the park’s evolution over the next 30 years.
It begins by identifying what overuse looks like. It then describes the various patterns of use that exist today, and explaining what progress the state has made to date. It describes the 2050 Vision project, explains how comprehensive planning works and then describes the best management practices needed to overcome the problem. They include outreach and education; front-country infrastructure (parking, trails into communities, restrooms); back-country infrastructure (sustainable trails, lean-tos, camp sites); limits on use (parking reservations, shuttles, etc.) and more money and personnel (rangers, planners, conservation police, engineers, trail crews, interpreters, etc.).
The plan cites examples of what works at nearby national parks and other protected areas and suggests how they could be adapted to Adirondack-specific conditions.
“I hope that this StoryMap, which is a part of the VISION project, demonstrates that multimedia platforms — particularly ones that convey spatial information — are a major asset to conservationists trying to visualize and communicate a future for the Park,” Randall said.
“The Governor, State Department of Environmental Conservation and others are to be congratulated for recognizing the challenge of overuse and working together to identify and start to implement actions to preserve access to Adirondack Wilderness, protect people’s safety, and safeguard this national treasure,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We have a great team and this StoryMap can help people understand the challenge overuse presents and the management options recommended.”
Photo of Cascade trail erosion provided by Adirondack Council.