The train maybe leaving the station, but IMHO we could all contribute to turning this situation for the better. Here's some ideas:
1. Don't make it elitist, because it isn't.
2. Don't always lead with how expensive it is.
3. Teach, but a little at a time. ...put your new sailer on the helm and shut up when they mess up.
4. Post pictures
5. Don't scare them away.
6. Don't minimize any sailing experience.
7. Take young people sailing.
Capecodda nailed it. The future of sailing is in all of our hands. I never set foot aboard a sailboat before I showed up at USNA, but I know I would have loved to sail as a youngster.
I have a secret plan to take as many people sailing as I can. We have many friends with young kids... who knows what lifelong memories and future sailing passion can be instilled in just one afternoon on a sailboat.
I can't really say how sailing is faring in NC, though there are just as many sailboats on the water down by Morehead City as I recall 10 or 20 years ago.
I think a lot has to do with the fact that a lot of "affordable" boats are getting older, and as I understand it, fewer and fewer boats are being made in the 20-23' range (which seems to be the ideal trailer sailor range for someone with a family). Older boats fall into disrepair, people get scared away from them. Newer boats are EXPENSIVE! (just look on sailboatlistings.com for 20-23' boats made since 2010).
On a side note, I sometimes wonder if there isn't a potential business for buying project sailboats, restoring them to excellent or like-new condition, and reselling for a modest profit.