Preserving access to outdoor recreation not only protects the natural environment, it also helps the economy, businesses, communities and the many people who depend on the availability of open space and public lands to earn their living.
A recently released study, which was funded by the Outdoor Industry Council, has revealed that consumers annually spend an estimated $33.8 billion on outdoor recreational pursuits nationwide.
According to the study, more than 6.1 million Americans depend on open space and outdoor recreation to earn a living. Not only is outdoor recreation important to our health and quality of life, it is also a critical component of the national economy.
Photo by Joe Hackett
The wonders of camp life are often initiated at a young age.
In New York, the benefits of outdoor recreation on the state's economy are considerable. Outdoor recreation is also a key feature of New York's tourist-driven economy, and those pursuits are directly responsible for more than 305 million jobs, which contribute an estimated $12.5 billion in wages and salaries annually.
The recreation economy also brings in $2.8 million in state and local tax revenue, $2.2 million in gas and oil and provides $3.5 million for education.
Revenue from outdoor recreation is also responsible for bringing in $4.3 million for warehousing and storage industry. It also provides another $5.5 million for the construction industry and $7.7 million to the professional, technical and scientific sector.
The study also indicates that more than half of all state residents regularly participate in some form of outdoor recreation. If you've ever spent time hiking the busy trails of the Adirondack region, it seems most of them travel north.
Off to the woods
The term camp is subject to a wide variety of interpretations. In the Adirondacks, camps vary from the most basic, to the most outlandish that often leave a lot of room to maneuver.
During the hey days of the Adirondacks, the term "great camp" was coined to describe the most opulent and ostentatious of Adirondack properties that were constructed in a rustic style.
The term "rough camp," on the other hand, has often been used to describe a host of lesser alternatives, ranging from a simple bark shanty or a tarp hung from the trees, to the spacious and comfortable log lean-tos that are scattered across the park.
Given the region's topography and it's geologic history, there are nearly as many natural "slant rock camps" to be found as there are cobblestone camps (which often featured the glacial till in their construction).
But the common thread that binds all camps - large and small, great and not-so great - lays in their capacity to instantly transport occupants into a totally relaxed state of mind.
No matter how harried one's life may be, the civilized world is promptly dismissed, and all ordinary matters and manners of polite society are promptly left behind upon arrival in camp.
It is not a matter of distance or remoteness that erases the worries and woes from a camper's mind, it is the opportunity the camp allows for them to shed the shackles of the civilized world and to escape the duties of social responsibility.
In reality, camp does not have to be a far-flung physical location (although it's certainly preferred). A proper camp can be found in any location where the occupants can find a sanctuary that is removed from the petty annoyances of everyday life.
Unfortunately, the greatest intrusion on the concept of camp is now found in the possession of nearly everyone. There has never been a single item in the history of camp life more disturbing than a cell phone. Despite the distance, the atmosphere and camaraderie of camp, the entire concept of camp can be instantly lost with a single jingle.
As one old camper explained, "It isn't that I don't want you to be disconnected, but if they can reach you, then they can get to me, and I come to camp to get away from all that clatter."
However, camp is much more than a simple physical presence, it is place of traditions and respect, where memories are made and friends can be found. It's pretty much a way of life.
Camp life offers an escape from the modern world and a return to a slower and more basic existence. In a seemingly confusing and contradictory manner, some campers travel great distances to find solitude, only to voice regret over the lack of having a companion to share it with.
In this regard, I've always found dogs to be good company - they're easy to talk to and they'll rarely argue a point.
But I also recognize the necessity of sharing the moment, as natural beauty is only available to the eye of the beholder, and there is no method to fully relate the overwhelming beauty of a natural scene. It's simply impossible to relate the authentic sights, sounds and scents, or the tastes, textures and touch of the natural world.
The camp tradition has also been recognized for it's ability to shape personal character as much as it helps to foster an understanding of the natural world.
A person who sleeps on the ground, exposed to the open air, develops a unique connection with the earth. Camp life provides the connections necessary to develop a lifelong commitment to the many sporting traditions that surround it.
Camp is a huge part of many families, and by traveling to camp, they are permitted to recapture a piece of the past. It is likely that is the main reason most humans fell need to get away, and escape to the woods.
The human urge to camp is as old as mankind. We are seeking to placate a desire for nature that still remains in our DNA.
This genetic longing has never been fully explained, however in recent years, researchers have been able to quantify what most campers have always known: We are more relaxed outdoors and because we satisfy the desire, we are restored.
According to Drs. Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, environmental psychologists at the University of Michigan, "Nature can be the most effective source of restorative relief."
Their report explained, "A growing body of studies suggests that contact with nature is as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep. Time spent outdoors correlates with increased physical activity and fitness in children. Exposure to green space increases general well-being and the ability to focus."