Adaptability & A Theme Park

Adaptability:park 2

  • (Latin: adaptō “fit to, adjust”) is a feature of a system or of a process. Adaptability in humans is a personality trait, and refers to how long it takes a person to adjust to change over time (as opposed to an initial reaction). Adaptation is about leaving – or being forced from – your comfort zone.

Adaptability is about change. Every second of every day, we are adapting to change – and we must. As Henry Louis Menken … said “Change is not Progress”. You can change and still not adapt to differences to move forward.  Adaptability is always values-based, and yet values can change throughout your life. When you meet a situation for the first time that requires you to adapt in some way, your “line in the sand” is always your values.

So, what does this have to do with a Theme Park? Well, in my FYE 103 class, a lot. In discussing adaptability, I didn’t want to just show a movie or PowerPoint, so I used a “Theme Park” as a way to think about our values – our adapting to others’ views – our adapting to change, which is what college is all about (especially that first year). Here’s how it was laid out:

park 1The Park: Theme Park developers from New York want to construct a theme park on a particular large tract of land in your town, which is a natural habitat for an endangered species of wolf. This tract is also adjacent to other large tracts – one owned by a sustainable timber company, which offers both jobs and recreation for the town, and the other a long-time family farm. Your town has struggled to bounce back from the recession a few years ago, and some businesses have closed or cut back. The town’s population is approximately 10,000, but is on the outside edge of a large metropolitan ‘hub’ with a variety of big-box stores, small business, shopping, hotels, cinemas, and the like with a population of about 55, 000.

The Community Council is meeting tonight. As you can imagine, there is a lot of debate, angst, and accusations in your community. There were basically four groups attending the Community Council to make a presentation on their view:

  1. Three-generation family farm who own the land and are torn between cultivating it and selling to developers.  One of you has a child who wants to attend college abroad; thus, there is pressure for immediate income. One of you has an elderly parent who needs income
  2. Conservationist group who wish to preserve the land for endangered species
  3. A Lumber company that sustainably harvests timber from the land, and has a current agreement for this property to harvest a portion of the timber
  4. Townspeople who want the tourism revenue generated by either a natural preserve or amusement park


Groups were given a Flip chart. They had 20 minutes to determine their position/arguments and address following questions to present to the town council:

  • What would your group like to happen to the land?
  • How does your decision affect the others in the scenario (i.e., people)?
  • How does this affect the environment in the short- and long-term?  What are your interests and priorities?

Each group presented to the town council (the class). A panel of ‘expert evaluators’ critiqued positions by asking questions of each group.

Group #1     A co-op of Family Commercial Farmers who own the land and are torn between cultivating it and selling to developers.

One has a child who wants to attend college out-of-state; thus, there is pressure for immediate income.  One has an elderly parent who needs income.  One is aging yourself and could use the money for your retirement funds.

Presented information on:

  • Statistics on farm-to-market increased sales
  • Statistics of people who want fresh, organic produce – to buy and at restaurants
  • Farming areas that are changing in the news – stories of developers changing the landscape, but keeping local flavor

Group #2    A group of local conservationists who wish to preserve the land for endangered species and recreational activities, such as bird watching, hiking, etc. This land was given to the City by a founding family who wish it preserved for all wildlife, but did not state thus in the will.

This time it’s wolves but your group has won cases before on other endangered animals as well.

One is the one spearheading this organization, is the former landowner’s great grandson. One is the Club President; most of you are wealthy, powerful members. One  is a hired lobbyist for this group. Most other members are also members of the Sierra Club and other conservationist organizations.

Presented information on:

  • Statistics on conserved land given by individuals; surrounding land of the Nature Conservancy; Sierra Club; Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Statistics on other conserved land developed in a good way – one that conserves land as well as developing for business
  • Stories of land that has been preserved and why; or land that is shared and why

 Group #3     A Lumber Company that wants to harvest timber from the land

Your company harvests the timber sustainably, and currently have harvesting rights with the landowners on the same property as the one wishing to be developed.

One is the company’s right-of-way representative, and believe the developers are encroaching on neighboring land for which harvesting rights have been in place for a 100 years.  One is a landowner on whose property the Company harvests timber. One  is the spouse of a nearby lumber-mill employee whose mill has seen decreasing timber in an increasing population.

Information presented:

  • Company reputation for sustainable timber harvest; you even give away Christmas trees to the local population
  • Growth of population in the area; lack of available housing
  • Cost of construction materials; lack of building materials nearby, thus making new construction and remodeling expensive
  • Statistics/articles on timber companies sharing resources with landowners, developers, and conservative groups
  • Loss of job in the area with loss of timber jobs

Group #4 – A group of townspeople who want the Theme Park and tourism revenue generated by it.

One is the Mayor of the town; under pressure to lower taxes and increase tourism or business. One is a small business owner who would like to see increased business diversity and revenue One is the Chamber One is an unemployed lumber worker laid off because of dwindling timber supply

Information presented:

  • Stats on revenue being generated by tourism development and theme parks
  • Articles on theme parks and types of businesses added because of it
    • Areas like Disneyland and Disney World; 6 Flags, and the surrounding areas
  • Increased jobs from tourism and / or theme parks
  • International tourism

We had “Experts” in our audience who asked questions of the 4 groups:

Expert #1                                                                                                          

A farm1representative from the Family Farmer Co-op member who owns land in the next county, but on the opposite side of land to be developed.  They have been approached by these developers as well; they are torn between keeping and cultivating your land, or selling.

He/she chose to keep your farm because of the resurgence of the farm-to-table movement in recent years, and you have seen a marked increase in sales to local grocers and restaurants. They know that several farmers sell overseas, and it’s been a real boon to the co-op too. Membership has increased to include both grocers and restaurant owners in your area, and you are getting pressure from them to leave it as it is – great farmland.  They also have Co-op members who have given up farming – their kids don’t want to take it over – some went to work in town to send their kids away to college; some have aging parents; some are aging themselves and could use the money.

Expert #2                                                                                                                             

A local Chamber of Commerce Director who would like to see the land preserved, but who also has seen increased tourism revenue generated by either both natural preserves and amusement parks. This type of development could be a real boon to the area, but would like to see it scaled back a little, and understand the mixture of feelings from the townspeople.  He/she has Chamber members and friends who own small businesses or manage some of the big box stores – and some involved with the entertainment industry who have put some pressure on you to increase traffic and revenue in the area.  This person is considering running for Mayor next term, so you want to maintain good relationships with whoever ‘wins’ this debate.

Expert # 3  farm2                                                                                                                         

A retired Lumber Company Executive who understands the needs of population boom in the immediate and surrounding areas and the lack of affordable housing. He/she has seen timber prices increase substantially, but they are also an avid outdoors person who understands that conservation and conservative timber harvest can and do work.   This person has stayed in the area, but have seen taxes increased because of the lack of new business and jobs available, and have considered moving. This person has friends still working at the Lumber Company. He/she knows the Mayor and the Chamber Director.

So, what happened?

Part I: Group discussion and presentation. OK – now the fun begins.  WOW! The discussions were incredible.  Without being told to, they came up with various slogans:  “Adapt or Die”; who needs Timber anyway? Jobs-Jobs-Jobs!  Say No to Development!   Remember, your house is built from our land! Save the wolves – and their friends! What kind of business do you want here? How to have fun with your kids. Progress is coming! 

They had some groups members on the computer looking up statistics and articles on their behalf.  Right away, two of the groups talked about how they could work with other groups to provide “development with a heart”, and would share the property.

Anyway, Part II will explain who adapted to whom and what, and what finally occurred during the Council Meeting…stayed tuned!


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