In 2015, Old Forge native Tyler Socash decided to take the money he had been saving for a car and spend it on something more experiential: three long-distance hiking trips.
Starting in August, he ended up hiking seven thousand miles as he finished the Pacific Crest Trail, Te-araroa (Long Pathway) in New Zealand, and the Appalachian Trail. After the yearlong trip, the thirty-year-old came home to the Adirondacks, where he returned to a former employer, the Adirondack Mountain Club, as a wilderness trip leader. » Continue Reading.
As the community foundation of the Adirondack region, we spend a lot of time in the community. Lately, we’ve noticed a promising trend: more and more young people are visiting the Tri-Lakes, and some of them are starting to move here to open up businesses or join the workforce. Sure, it’s anecdotal – but sometimes you have to trust what you’re seeing.
We commend the Tri-Lakes Young Professionals (TLYP) for convening the young people who’ve decided to make the Adirondacks their home, and for building a network that keeps growing by the day. » Continue Reading.
At the conference on Adirondack demographics recently held in Albany (described last week by Pete Nelson), there were some familiar faces and some familiar facts. And there were also some familiar but unsupportable conclusions.
The speakers reminded us of two main demographic trends: First, the average age in Adirondack towns is going up. And second, the number of school-aged children in Adirondack school districts is declining. These numbers are not in dispute. They are derived from unimpeachable research conducted by the Center for Applied Demographics at Cornell University (CAD). They suggest a serious challenge to the welfare of our friends and neighbors who live and work in Adirondack towns. » Continue Reading.
I have always felt that there were three prevailing dispositions towards statistics: professional – by those who know how to use statistics and do so legitimately; political – by those who use (or typically misuse) them for propaganda; and cynics. Cynics have an attitude toward statistics best captured by the aphorism popularized by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” » Continue Reading.
Peter Bauer recently ran a post reviewing a report that college-educated young people are leaving rural areas in droves for “close-in” living in cities where economic opportunities, cultural amenities and entertainment options far exceed their native communities. Bauer described this as a subset of a larger dynamic, namely the decades-long global trend toward urbanization. At the conclusion of the article he asked leaders of the Park to “understand these dynamics and to develop strategies for ways to tap into these larger trends.”
Adirondack leaders and residents alike have been aware of these trends for a long time, living both population decline and gentrification of their communities as personal experiences. But while the fact of these changes is unquestionable, Bauer is right in his call: the full dynamics are not that well understood here in the Park. » Continue Reading.
Communities throughout the Adirondack Park, upstate New York and much of rural America are confronting aging and declining populations, a lack of year-round jobs, limited affordable housing and shrinking school enrollments.
The Town of Lake George faces many if not all of those challenges. Unlike most communities, though, it’s developing a strategy to address them.
At the end of September, the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and its consultant, the Chazen Companies, held a four-day community-wide charrette at the Fort William Henry Conference Center and the Town Hall. » Continue Reading.
Drive through Lake George, and you can see evidence that tourism is booming. Traffic is heavy, especially in summer when Lake George runs full-throttle. There are plans for a major hotel and a reinvention of downtown that includes an easing of building-height restrictions. A wave of construction is underway, with new shops, outlet malls, restaurants, and attractions.
“We’re extremely fortunate in the Adirondacks that our principal industry is tourism,” says Lake George Mayor Robert Blais. “No smokestacks, no getting up in the morning and reading the paper and finding out [the major employer] is going to close in six months. We’re part of the picture I think of the great Adirondack Park where families can come and find so many things to do.”
Lake George isn’t alone. Other thriving tourism towns, such as Lake Placid and Old Forge, have seen an increase in visitors, often drawing travelers year-round. In addition, a second tier of resort communities, including Inlet, Keene, North Creek, Saranac Lake, and Schroon Lake, seem to be enjoying the fruits of a visitor-based economy.
Economic data for specific towns are hard to come by, but a 2012 state report found that tourism accounts for roughly 12.4 percent of jobs inside the Adirondack Park, roughly thirteen thousand positions altogether. And in a 2013 progress report, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council says Essex County experienced an increase of 9 percent in visitors from 2012.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has made tourism development in the region one of his top priorities, launching a new ad campaign—including TV and radio spots and banners on New York City buses—while also establishing a new $2 million revolving loan fund to foster investment inside the Blue Line. “It’s not just about fun,” Cuomo said during a visit to the Adirondacks in March. “It’s about economic development and jobs.”
Recent pieces (here and here) in the Adirondack Almanack stressed the importance of placing the Adirondack Park experience and condition in a national context, especially with the rest of rural America. National context is important when trying to ascertain trends in Adirondack Park demographics, economics or land use.
This past weekend, The New York Times data-crunching blog The Upshot published an interactive map that ranked the 3,135 counties in the U.S. by how hard or easy these places are to live. The indicators they chose to create this ease or hardship ranking were median income, unemployment, percent of population with a college degree, disability rate, obesity and life expectancy. The Upshot said these metrics were selected due to the availability of county level data across the U.S., which provided a profile of economic and public health conditions. Disability was not used as a health indicator, but as a data point for the non-working adult population, which was used in conjunction with unemployment. » Continue Reading.
Visitors to the region were drawn by outdoor recreation, preferred hotel accommodations to other types of lodging, and spent $93 for every occupancy tax dollar spent on marketing in 2013, according to the latest leisure travel information study.
For the eleventh year in a row, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) contracted an independent third party to conduct a Leisure Travel Information Study. For the last three years, ROOST engaged PlaceMaking to conduct the survey applying the same methodology as in the previous years when it was conducted by the Technical Assistance Center at SUNY Plattsburgh. Survey data from 2013 visitors show record visitation to Essex County from across the decade of this research. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project (APRAP) recently came out with a 5-year Update. The APRAP Update provides new data on land protection in the Adirondacks, the Park’s demographics, school district enrollments, and the delivery of emergency services in local communities. The main theme of the APRAP Update is that the Adirondack Park is out of balance. This lack of balance is depicted by a 2-page cartoon where an upended seesaw has flung children and loggers out of the Park, while waitresses, birdwatchers, EMS staff, and retirees, among others, stand firmly on the grounded end of the seesaw.
The APRAP Update has some useful information, but continues to try and make the case that the root of the problems and challenges facing the Adirondack Park are the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act and the growth of the Forest Preserve. We are asked to assume, because the Park is growing and the population is aging and shrinking, that the former causes the latter. (No note is made of the fact that the population grew along with the Park for most of the post WWII period.) Thus, the APRAP project continues to supply the intellectual fodder for the blame-the-park lobby. » Continue Reading.
In 2009, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages sponsored a report, the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project (APRAP), full of important, often-distressing data on the demographics of all 103 towns and villages in the Park. In May of 2014, a five-year update was released, with a spurious—if not downright deceptive—explanation for why our towns are in trouble.
Let’s get the problems on the table first, for they are indeed real and pressing. The overall population of the Park is declining. More important, as the report correctly observes, the population of young families with children is declining even more rapidly than is the overall population, while the median age is rising (and rising faster than the state average).
Because the number of young families with children is declining, school populations are falling off to the point where some districts may not be viable. » Continue Reading.
One persistent myth in the Adirondack Park population debate is that environmental regulations and the Forest Preserve drive young people out of the Adirondack Park. In certain quarters this is considered gospel in the debate over the future of the Adirondack Park.
The reality is that this myth is a myth.
A great tool is being offered by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who put together a fascinating interactive website with U.S. population emigration data 1950-2010. It lets one explore various population migration trends across the U.S. post World War II. The UW-Madison site helps us in the Adirondacks see how our demographic trends track closely to the rest of rural America.
Population decline in rural America has been driven by the loss of the rural manufacturing base that could not compete with cheap overseas costs. It’s been driven by the vast mechanization and contraction of the farm and logging work forces. For example, Iowa State University reports the number of hog farmers in Iowa dropped from 65,000 in 1980 to 10,000 in 2002, while the number of hogs per farm increased from 200 to 1,400. It’s been driven by the massive growth of online shopping and services (remember in the days before NetFlix when there were video stores in several Park communities). Government austerity programs don’t help rural areas either as public sector employment is always higher in rural areas as a total percentage of the work force. » Continue Reading.
I’ve often heard people say that there’s either too much or not enough public land in the Adirondacks. I thought I’d crunch some numbers and let readers explore the data for themselves:
I put together a map visualization that shows the relative proportion of public land, trails and lean-to’s around the interior hamlets of the park. The land classification figures are probably very accurate, as they are derived from the Adirondack Park Agency’s Land Classification and Land Use map. If you notice some strange numbers for biking and horse trails its because these trail types have not been as diligently classified in the DEC trails database as hiking and snowmobile trails.
When I started as the Council’s executive director on May 1, friends in the Park said “welcome home.” I had worked here for the Adirondack Mountain Club for close to 10 years after graduating from St. Lawrence University with a degree in Economics and Environmental studies back in 1985.
That led to work with The Nature Conservancy, the Hudson River Greenway Council and – for the past six years – as a Regional Director for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in the Hudson Valley/Catskills region. I continued to visit the park when time allowed and kept myself current on park issues, hoping that someday I would get a chance to return to this special place. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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