It’s in our nature to be ‘Politely Adirondack’

The hand sanitizer station and “Politely Adirondack” social distancing sign from the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism is seen Monday, June 1 at the park at the corner of Main Street and Saranac Avenue in Lake Placid. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

To the visitors and seasonal residents, welcome to the Adirondacks. You and your families have made an investment of time and money to be here — even if it’s only for one day, a weekend, a week, a summer or periodically as your personal and business calendars allow — and we enjoy having you here as a part of our Olympic Region family.

We are embarrassed by the Memorial Day weekend protest at the Adirondack Northway’s Exit 30 and on state Route 73 near the ski jumps, telling visitors to go home. Targeting motorists with out-of-state license plates was discriminatory and mean-spirited. The fact that there were only two people shows there isn’t an upswell of resentment against travelers or part-time residents, even if they do claim to have dozens of people interested in their cause. Many full-time residents were horrified when they saw those photos of the rude signs on Facebook.

The fact is that most Adirondackers are still hospitable during these uncertain times, even if the governor is asking people not to travel and the North Country’s economy has not fully reopened. Many full-time residents realize that visitors with out-of-state license plates may actually be second-home owners with every right to be here, even during the coronavirus pandemic, not travelers defying the stay-at-home guidance from local and state governments. They may be people who grew up here visiting family members or “snowbirds” who winter down south and summer here.

We know you are taking every precaution to make sure the local population and your family are safe, adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines the best you can when around others. And we appreciate that.

Fear takes many forms. Some people keep it inside, and others lash out. Even the most polite people in the Adirondacks may have reservations about seeing seasonal residents and travelers in town. Their eyes may bulge a little at first when seeing an out-of-state license plate on the road. But they haven’t forgotten their manners, and they are still polite, even if they are afraid.

Most of us are afraid right now, very afraid. I’m sure you are. These days, we have multiple layers of fear — from the violence and looting erupting as Americans and people around the world protest the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the political instability during a presidential election year, climate change, ticks, unemployment, the economy, personal finances, and the unknown future and consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Pushed to the brink, the unthinkable is happening every day.

As these stressers continue through the summer, we know you’ll be here in increasing numbers, trying to escape the madness and get your own dose of peace in the woods and on the waterways of the Adirondacks. But the fear is still here.

We’re afraid we may either get COVID-19 or pass the virus along to others without even knowing it. That’s why most of us are following the guidance: staying at least 6 feet apart, wearing face masks if we can’t be under 6 feet apart, and washing our hands with soap and water.

As the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism puts it, many residents are minding their manners and being “Politely Adirondack.”

But not everyone. Those who lash out, like the Exit 30 protesters, have taken their fear to a new level. Please know that they are the exception, not the rule. Yet they are still our neighbors, and while we may disagree with their actions, we need to keep them in our prayers along with everyone else. A little understanding and compassion — from all sides — is what we need right now. This “us versus them” mentality has to stop.

We understand many of you may be hesitant to visit the Adirondacks right now, but when you are ready, please know that we will be here with virtual hugs to welcome you back.

We wish you and your family the best of health, and we look forward to seeing you when the time is right.