If you live in Hamilton County you better pack your bags. At least that’s the message from the Glens Falls Post-Star. “Hamilton County might not survive the next century,” reporter Jon Alexander opined recently is a story labeled “analysis” that seriously argued that by 2040, only 28 men and 24 women between the ages of 25 and 29 will live in Hamilton County – an 85 percent decline for that age group between 1990 and 2040.
According to Alexander’s unnamed “local officials,” “If things don’t change in Hamilton County, in about 25 years, there won’t be anyone left to respond to fires, drive ambulances or plow the roads.” “It’s scary,” Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board, told Alexander.
It is of course, nonsense, cooked-up by the Post-Star to bolster their 40-year-old arguments that the Forest Preserve, the Adirondack Park Agency, and the Adirondack Park system as a whole, are bad for our economy.
There is so much wrong with the disappearing Hamilton County argument, I wonder where to begin. It’s tiring to keep combating the same arguments that Adirondackers are “endangered species,” but here’s another recap of the some of the facts.
1 – Communities inside the Adirondack Park are growing faster than the state average. In the 40 years since 1970 (the last census before the creation of the APA) the population of towns solely inside the Park has increased by almost 15%, whereas the population of New York State as a whole has increased by just over 5% over the same period. Like other rural areas our population is aging, but the population is growing, and development of the Adirondack Park remains unabated.
2 – The number of summer residents is increasing constantly and substantially. From 1990 to 2004, an average of 1,000 new homes were built annually in the Park (the rate has accelerated and then slowed with the economy since then). The Town of Caroga (entirely within the Park) had a 69.2 percent vacancy rate in 2010 (up two percent from 2000), meaning about 525 homes are occupied year-round, but more than twice that number are seasonal residences. Every other northern Fulton County town entirely within the Adirondack Park (also bordering Hamilton County) also saw increases in the number of seasonal homes far exceeding the numbers for southern Fulton County towns outside the Park. These Fulton County towns are barely recognized as Adirondack destinations, and the numbers for Essex, Northern Warren, Southern Franklin, Northern Saratoga, and Hamilton counties are likely much higher. History shows, seasonal residents become permanent residents. They also pay taxes, contribute to the economy, and serve their communities in other ways.
3 – The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has almost no impact on economics in the Adirondacks (except perhaps to provide a number of good paying jobs). The APA has an impact on just 20 percent of all development activities in the Adirondack Park. The rest, 80 percent, fall under the purview of the towns. Of the 20 percent, the APA has declined just .8% of the projects that have been brought before it since 1973. That is just .16 percent of all legal development activities since 1973.
It’s clearly not enough to provide some reasonable counters to the disappearing Hamilton County distortions and scare tactics. None of the basic counter-arguments of this manufactured crisis, as outlined above, are ever included in the reporting of the Post-Star.
What we get instead is calculated and repeated misrepresentations that originate in long-held views of the editors of the Post-Star. They are using every opportunity their bully pulpit allows to push their political agenda in the guise of journalism.
Jon Alexander’s piece does not include a single quote disputing his conclusions. In a piece about demographics, none of the countering numbers (part of the public debate on this topic) are included, and instead Alexander offers his own specious arguments under the guise they represent some monolithic “environmentalist” view.
That’s some analysis (wink-wink).
I thought long and hard about how to address this latest misinformation from the Post-Star. After all, linking to this story here at the Almanack simply provides space for the increasingly outlandish views the Post-Star publishes. It’s no surprise that no other media outlet in the region thought this “story” worth reporting, or repeating.
But I think it’s important to understand how one local newspaper (located outside the Blue Line and with its own increasingly untenable economic situation) uses its position as a paper of record for Warren County to launch attack after attack on its regional political enemies.
That, in my view, is a story worth reporting.