Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Peter Bauer:
New Data For The Adirondack Park Population Debate

Entering-Adirondack-ParkThree new interesting data points have recently come out from the US Census and the NYS Department of Education that provide a state and national context for the Adirondack population debate. In previous posts I have argued that we need to look at Adirondack Park population trends against a backdrop of state and national rural demographic trends, especially those impacting rural America. Others disagree and argue that Adirondack Park population trends are immune to national forces and trends, but rather are shaped by the distinct and negative impacts of the Forest Preserve and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act regional land use controls.

I think that the blame-the-Park lobby could benefit from a hard look at state and national trends because a better understanding of what rural areas in the US are facing will help develop a long-term population retention and recruitment strategy that might work for the Adirondack Park. The controversial APRAP report was notably devoid of larger state and national trends in its population analysis.

I believe that the Park’s modest population decreases, which are much less than many other rural areas in the US, have been eased by the protected landscape of the Adirondacks, which supports active tourist-small-business-public sector economies.

Some efforts are underway to craft a long-term plan for Adirondack Park communities, but I think these efforts fail to fully grasp the structural challenges facing the rural Adirondack Park population. As I’ve stated in earlier posts on this subject: If we don’t understand the realities of the Adirondack population trends, we’re sure to undermine our community development strategies for the future.

The first interesting data point is in the findings released this month from the US Census, which also included new analysis about demographic trends in rural America.

The big message in the US Census “2012 National, State, County and Puerto Rico Population Estimates by Demographic Characteristics” is that rural America has experienced an overall population drop (14% of the US population now live in rural America, which covers more than 75% of US lands). Previous US Census reports found that a large percentage of counties in rural America had experienced population losses, that the percentage of the Americans living in metropolitan areas continued to increase (it’s well over 80%), or the percentage of total jobs in metropolitan America continued to increase and concentrate (it’s well over 85%). But, now the US Census estimates that the rural US population as a whole is seeing an overall ever-so-slight population drop.

The other newsworthy part of the US Census 2012 estimates is that they have taken a closer look at rural American demographic trends and report several factors that may make recent rural population losses an irreversible long-term trend. Protect the Adirondacks has reported on these population dynamics before, but this new analysis by the US Census brings these issues into sharper focus.

It’s important to note that the Adirondack Park population generally grew modestly 1970-1999, when New York and the Northeast US population was stagnant, but experienced a slight downturn 2000-2009. The US Census is now reporting on population estimates over three years 2010-2012, with a closer look at the down trends in rural America.

Consider these four big items from the new US Census findings, which have bearing on the Adirondacks. First, the 65-and-older US population grew by 4.3 percent between 2011 and 2012, and now tops 43 million, which is 13.7 percent of the US population. When PROTECT tried to call attention to the fact that the whole country is aging to broaden the perspective on the Park’s aging population, the blame-the-Park crowd was quick to say it’s not national trends that drive the Park’s aging population, rather it’s the fault of the Forest Preserve and APA.

The US median age rose to 37.5 in 2012, up from 37.3 in 2011. This increase is amplified in rural America. In the Adirondacks, PROTECT has shown, based on national demographics, that the Park’s population will continue to age for some time. Others have made a similar prediction. I don’t dispute the Park’s aging trend, but I see opportunistic linkages to lay blame at the Forest Preserve and APA as a dead-end for a meaningful dialogue about crafting an Adirondack Park population retention and recruitment strategy.

Second, in 2012, the US Census reported a 0.01 percent loss for rural America in the years 2010-2011, which it saw at that time as insignificant. Now, in 2013, this trend has continued with the 2011-12 estimates. 2010-2012 may be the beginning of a larger trend of sustained rural population loss when coupled with additional information about the demographics of rural America and the migration patterns of older Americans.

Third, 2010-2012 also saw more deaths than births among the US white population. This is a first, but demographers project it could be the beginning of a long-term trend. This could have an outsized impact on the Park’s population, which is 97% white. Some have discounted the meaning of the overwhelming white population in the Adirondack Park. But, right now the population of rural America is overwhelmingly white and it’s these areas that are experiencing population loss. Areas with higher racial diversity are seeing population growth.

Fourth, “US migration data show that older Americans are most inclined to live in rural counties until about age 74, before moving closer to more populated locations. The oldest of the nation’s 76 million baby boomers turn 74 in 2020 (born in 1946), meaning the window is closing for that group to help small towns grow.”

What this means is important. Retirees moving to the Adirondacks have always been seen as a self-replenishing pool, sort of a human artesian well of emigrants to the Park. They move here, are financially secure, get deeply involved in local communities, and some start businesses.

As we’ve shown in other posts the baby boomers generation is a huge, bulging cohort in the American population and two trends in this cohort could strongly impact long-term Adirondack population trends. First, this group is now in the beginning of a period where they will age-out beyond an active retirement age for living in rural America. Second, this population will also begin to die off. The next decades could well see a contraction in total retirees living to the Adirondacks.

Another wrinkle is that the baby boom generation is overwhelmingly white. This is important because the US Census reports that white Americans are more likely to live in rural areas. Over 85% of people in the US today 65 years old and older are white. As the pool of older Americans starts to shrink or age out of viable living in rural America so too will the pool of Americans most likely to move to rural areas. This will impact the Park too.

On a side note the racial differences of the age groups in the US is fascinating. The US Census states, “For the first time, America’s racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group.” Conversely, as stated above, the over-65 population is over 85% white.

What does this mean for future political conversations and decisions as political power starts to shift with the country’s demographics? We’re not so good at talking across racial lines. We’re now moving into a prolonged period where we’ll see young and old Americans not just separated by age, but largely by race too.

Back in the North Country, what does it mean for an Adirondack Park population that is 97% white that larger American demographic trends see half of all births being nonwhite citizens? If recent trends continue to play out, one thing it means is that areas dominated by white populations are going to keep getting older and are going to keep gradually losing population.

All of this should help to inform a population retention and recruitment effort for the Adirondacks. These long-term structural trends create dynamics that will make it even more difficult for rural areas to maintain or increase their populations, but there are reasons for hope, and better yet, to undertake good planning that recognizes these challenges.

What will offset the population loss in the Adirondack Park compared with other areas? Traditionally recreational and scenic rural areas have faired better than other rural areas, especially those areas heavily focused on agriculture where the typical farm has become enormous and heavily mechanized. In the Great Plains the average farm size is well over 1,000 acres (in New York it’s 200 acres, in Vermont it’s less than 200 acres).

Recreational and scenic communities generally provide a wider array of natural amenities that retirees are looking for and generally are tourism centered areas that have an attractive array of social amenities of restaurants, movie theaters, art centers, and arts and crafts culture, and a variety of retail outlets and other services, among other things. Some Adirondack communities meet these tests, such as Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Old Forge, Bolton, Lake George, Keene, Westport, among others. Other communities are trying to build this infrastructure, while other communities are unlikely to assemble this economic and social infrastructure anytime soon. The areas in the Park that are experiencing population gains are these types of communities.

The two other data points to focus on are from the NYS Department of Education. These are important because they shine a light on the status of young adults who grow up in the Adirondacks. The two biggest population factors that shape the Park’s population more than anything else are that old people die, or move away for advanced aging services, and young people go to college.

These factors are not unique to the Adirondack Park — they are also major trends facing rural America.

Graduation rates are an oft-used metric for the performance of a school district. Sadly, in 2011-12, the New York State average for high school graduation was 74%, up from 69% in 2003. High school graduation alone is an imperfect metric, but it tells us something about the extent of a particular student body that is prepared to go on to college.

In previous online discussions I had raised the fact that Adirondack schools generally do a good job in educating local students and these students leave for college, both 2-year and 4-year institutions, in higher numbers than the state average. This is not unique to the Adirondacks. In fact, this has been seen in many other rural areas and is often amplified in communities facing population decline.

The blame-the-Park crowd did not want to hear this and, in fact, laughed it off. But, consider these numbers from 2011-2012 (the most recent stats available). The Crown Point school district graduated 82% of its students, Elizabethtown 90%, Keene 83%, Minerva 90%, Moriah 87%, Newcomb 87%, Schroon Lake 90%, Ticonderoga 81%, Westport 100%, Willsboro 92%, Saranac Lake 88%, St. Regis Falls 91%, Tupper Lake 84%, Broadalbin-Perth 87%, Mayfield 83%, Indian Lake 89%, Long Lake 87%, Lake Pleasant 85%, Wells 82%, Saranac 87%, Chazy 91%, AuSable Valley 80%, Beaver River 91%, Webb 93%, Poland 89%, Colton-Pierrepont 87%, Parrishville-Hopkinton 93%, Whitehall 82%, Queensbury 90%, Warrenburg 81%, North Warren 81%, Lake George 92%, Johnsburg 89%, and Bolton 91%. These are not every school district in the Adirondacks, but include some of the biggest or most visible.

This is not the story for every district. A number of other school districts were right around the state average, including Lake Placid, Northville, Oppenheim-Ephratah, Peru, Northern Adirondack, Beekmantown, Harrisville, South Lewis, Corinth, Fort Ann, and Hadley-Luzerne, among others. The Glens Falls City School district was 73.5%.

And, there were a handful of North Country school districts below the state average that I won’t name.

Why is this an important data point? Because a kid isn’t going to college if they don’t graduate from high school. Schools that are graduating high percentages of kids are the most likely to send a similar high percentage off to college. College-bound student data is hard to come by, but the graduation rate, especially in the era of statewide standards in New York, lets us get a sense of what communities are producing kids most likely to go to college. In general, based on this metric, Adirondack school districts are doing pretty well, with many strongly outperforming the state average.

Since the vast amount of universities and colleges are not part of the rural American landscape, kids will continue to leave the Adirondack Park — and rural America — to go to college.

Now, the blame-the-Park crowd doesn’t want to hear any of this because successful Adirondack schools do not fit their narrative of an impoverished Park beset by myriad challenges due to the Forest Preserve and APA Act. Consider this statement on this topic by one of the blame-the-Park lobby’s loudest voices: “According to Peter, then, young people move away from the Park because the schools in the Park are so good? I’ve never heard that before, perhaps because it’s such a ridiculous thing to say. Most of the public schools in the Adirondack Park are starved for funding and can only offer the basics. Some do a good job with scant resources, but to cite their ‘excellence’ as a reason young people are moving away (because they’re well educated, and therefore, want to leave?) is a head-scratcher.”

I think that the data shows that far from being a head-scratcher it’s a reality. Further, it’s a rural US structural population demographic reality. It explains the sharp drop in the 20-year old population cohort throughout the Park. And, as such, it’s an important factor in the Adirondack population retention and recruitment debate. This same phenomenon is seen all across rural America.

The next data point is school district enrollment statewide. The APRAP report showed starkly that Adirondack school districts are losing students. They reported, “The average decline in enrollment from 2000 to 2007 is 329 students per year. At this pace, the Park is losing an average sized Adirondack school district every 19 months.” I’m not disputing APRAP’s findings on this matter. School populations are indeed declining in the Adirondacks. But, in the interest of context, they’re also declining across New York.

In fact, if one looks at the statewide school district data they’ll see that from 2005-06 school year through 2012-13, New York State lost over 100,000 students. Of the more than 675 schools districts in the state, fewer than 80 remained even in their enrollments or gained population. Those that gained were school districts in the suburbs around New York City and some upstate cities that have become refugee centers, like Utica.

The key factors driving Adirondack school populations is that we’re a largely white aging population and we experience an absence of women of childbearing age. Adirondack women in their 20s, the time of highest reproduction rates, are away at college in a disproportionately high number and they are not replaced in high numbers by people emigrating here in their 20s. Before you yell “gotcha” and go and blame the APA and the Forest Preserve as critical obstacles barring 20 year olds from emigrating to the Adirondack Park, be prepared to cite a rural area in the US where 20 year olds are emigrating in high numbers. (Please list these places/sources in the comments.)

The two biggest trends facing the Adirondacks and rural America is that kids go to college in areas outside of rural America and that old people in rural America die or move away for advanced aging.

The Adirondack Park is facing major structural population challenges rooted in American demographic realities of the aging baby boom generation, 50-year growth of metropolitan areas, and vast racial composition changes.

For a population retention and recruitment strategy for the Adirondack Park to succeed it will have to somehow buck a half-century of American population structural realities.

I’m an optimist who wants to see Adirondack communities thrive at the same time we preserve a wild landscape. You can’t be an environmentalist in the Adirondacks if you are not an optimist.

I think that the Park’s protected landscape has lessened the impact of these national trends and forces as overall the Park’s population decline has been slight. We have a number of very successful communities that are seeing modest growth. The blame-the-Park crowd will tell you the opposite. But we deny at our peril the important realities shaped by larger national population forces that have a direct bearing on Adirondack Park population trends.


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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

29 Responses

  1. Also, populations of municipalities located entirely inside the Blue Line are growing at a faster rate than NYS as a whole*.

    The real challenges are for rural New York and rural America. The tourism economy, made possible due to shrewd environmental protection measures, is the biggest single reason the Adirondacks are doing better than the rest of rural NYS.

    *- https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2011/08/adirondack-park-population-growing-faster-than-nys.html

  2. Brian Mann says:

    Hi Peter –

    These numbers are pretty interesting.

    And I think the evidence is pretty compelling that the vast majority of influences on the Park’s population and demographic trends are generalized to rural NY and the US.

    A couple of observations. First, it looks like about half of the North Country-Adirondack Park counties gained population over the two-year period.

    As you note, that’s a good thing and it shows some Park and border-Park communities bucking the national rural trend.

    That’s worth thinking about and trying to understand, because it could offer some ideas to other Park towns.

    But I think it’s also worth moving pretty quickly to find out if there are things that can be done to stabilize and support the populations in the five Park counties that saw pretty significant population loss over the two-year period.

    Here’s my back-of-the napkin tally.

    2012 2010 LOSS
    Clinton 81,654 – 82,118 -464
    Essex 38,961 – 39,277 -316
    Hamilton 4,778 – 4,827 -49
    Warren 65,538 – 65,686 -148
    Washington 62,934 – 63,282 -348

    Taken together, that’s about 1,300 people gone in just two years.

    Obviously, not all of these “out-migrators” lived in the Park – some were in counties that just happen to include part of the Adirondacks.

    And some of these folks may have moved to other parts of the Park that saw population growth.

    But particularly in counties which already have very low populations and are hyper-rural, these trends appear to be rapid enough to warrant real attention.

    Essex and Hamilton Counties, both entirely wi thin the blue line, each lost roughly 1% of their populations in a single two-year period — and those are counties that don’t have a lot of margin for error.

    People talk about Hamilton County’s tiny population, but in the grand scheme of things Essex County’s demographic viability-horizon may not be all that far behind.

    Again, I think your fundamental premise is born out by the data I’ve seen – the big mover here is almost certainly ruralness and even hyper-ruralness.

    As I’ve written before, I think the big question isn’t whether the Adirondack Park is causing the problem.

    The question is whether the Park’s remarkable infrastructure — from the APA to NGOs to the significant number of colleges and universities with a presence inside the blue line — can play a major role in mitigating the problem.

    Those are assets that most rural communities in the US just don’t have.

    –Brian, NCPR

  3. Rational and Logical says:

    More bogus and slanted analysis from the leader of PROTECT. Now there’s a surprise! As usual, there are multiple slants, inaccuracies and “cherry-picked” data points that skew the “analysis”. The FACTS are the towns and villages wholly within the Park are losing population and the remaining population is aging at a rate that matches (and in many cases exceeds) the oldest areas of the country (whether the area be defined as combined counties or multiple county regions). Period, fact undeniable, indisputable. Furthermore, the rate of the decrease among Hamilton and Essex Counties (the only two counties wholly within the Park) since 1950 exceeds that of any other two county region in New York State. Period, fact, undeniable, indisputable. The only growing segments of the population exist among age cohorts of 55 years of age and older. Period, fact, undeniable, indisputable. Peter can continue to ponder ways to twist and manipulate data assessments first raised in APRAP (and now fours years old). Interestingly all these years later he is still bothered by APRAP to the point where he feels compelled to try and spin data to shape a counter argument. I think this ongoing obsession spanning multiple years speaks to the power and influence of this report.

    On another point, the basic message of the above diatribe is to basically say “well, don’t feel bad about the plight of people who attempt to carve out an existence in one of the communities of the Adirondacks. All rural areas of the country are in decline and this is just part of a larger, national trend so these people should just except it”. Well that is all fine and good, except for one distinguishing circumstance that was intended to insulate the Park from such an outcome and that is – the Adirondack Park Act. Now approaching some forty years of age it was intended to make this region a shinning example of a what a well-planned region can become – establishing perfect harmony between man and environment; between preservation of natural resources and thoughtful economic and community development. So what happened? Why is the Park now to except the status of “just like other rural areas of country”? In reviewing the Act’s preamble one comes away with a sense of the intended balance to be achieved. In looking back over the last 40 years the problem rests with its execution. Consider the the amount of investment made in the preservation side of this “balanced” scale and then consider the investments in the communities and most importantly, the Park’s GREATEST asset; the people. Undertake this review as I have and you’ll find a tremendous lack of proportionality much less balance. There has been little to no investment made in the communities, infrastructure, cultural enrichment, or advancements in societal concerns. I speak with year-round residents all the time who yearn for more cultural events and employment opportunities. Not just for themselves but for their children. They respect the environment and are not interested in development for development’s sake. They’re not interested in large, wide-scale harm to natural resources. They simply want to have the same opportunities afforded to people of diverse and prospering communities. Faced with bleak outlooks the people look for areas where these opportunities exist and they move away. Now I am quite certain that much of the readership of this blog will take comfort in this outcome. Let them leave in favor of absolute sterile preservation. That is unfortunate and even cruel – the adherence to an ideology to the point where follow residents are forced to leave their hometowns or live in abject poverty. This is just not another rural area of the country. The way forward is to follow and invoke ALL aspects of the Act, invest in the communities and the people – recruit people and business and industry into the Park and create a genuinely attractive living condition for all species to thrive in; including the Park’s MOST threatened – humans.

  4. Pablo says:

    This seems more of a piece condemning the “blame-the-park crowd,” as Peter calls them over and over, than a learned analysis. I’d like to see an impartial study of the Adirondack population trends, not one that uses the numbers to reach an already-hoped-for conclusion.

  5. Brian M: a couple of responses…

    1) Context. None of the counties you cited lost more than 1% of its population. Most lost 0.5% of less. Worth monitoring but definitely not overreacting to…

    2) Do not over-extrapolate from short-term trends. This is two year data. There are always ebbs and flows. That’s why census collects population data only every 10 years. Broad policy discussions should be sober and based on medium- and long-term analysis, especially when the variations in question are so small. The population growth of municipalities entirely inside the Blue Line have consistently, since the APA was created, outpaced the population growth of the rest of New York. Let’s not let 2 years of data trump 40+.

  6. Pete Klein says:

    There are many inconvenient truths Pete points out and his information is information I have seen in recent stories from the Associated Press.
    What’s interesting to me is how our struggling schools with declining enrollments are doing a bang up job of educating the kids. Indian Lake just graduated 20 seniors, 18 of which are going on to college!
    Maybe our schools should become magnate schools for inner city kids to get a good education? Maybe that would help solve some of the 97% white problem?
    And maybe, considering the percentage of whites is slipping, we need to figure out how to attract more (at least some) nonwhite tourists if we expect to depend on tourism?
    As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changing” and we had better wake up to that fact.
    And we can not just say we need more jobs without considering what kind of jobs will attract and retain young people. I doubt there are many young people born here or born anywhere who are just dreaming of having a job cleaning rooms, waiting on tables or cutting down trees. The kids leave because the jobs they want are not here.

  7. Rational and Logical says:

    I think the graduation rate successes do make for a good story and are in fact an attribute. I believe the reason for this success is attributed to class sizes. More individualized attention to the learning styles and rates of retention of students by their teachers always leads to a higher quality of education. The current circumstances of the schools districts in the Adirondacks contribute to this outcome.

  8. Brian Mann says:

    Brian (MOFYC) –

    Two things –

    First, when I do the math on my calculator, Essex County lost almost exactly 1% and Hamilton County lost .8%. Am I running the numbers wrong?

    Second, I agree with you – if these latest numbers cited by Peter aren’t part of a larger trend, they don’t matter much.

    Losing 1,300 people over a two-year period is only scary if you think you might lose more consistently going forward.

    I think there’s enough evidence that that those trend-lines exist, especially in hyper-rural parts of these counties, that it’s worth thinking about.

    This is especially true in hyper-rural parts of the Park with little margin for error.

    It’s one thing to watch and wait when you’re talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

    But when you’re talking about hundreds of people, the wiggle room for economies, basic services, etc., is narrower.

    Hamilton County is obviously the poster child for this concern. The population there has dropped from 5,379 in in 2000 to 4,778 now.

    This isn’t ideological.

    If you’re thinking about operating essential programs in, say, rural Essex or Warren County — schools, fire departments, healthcare clinics — you have to be thinking about pragmatic critical mass questions.

    In fact, this stuff occupies a huge amount of the thinking that I encounter when doing my stories.

    People saying, “Okay, all the politics and feuding aside, how do I keep this hospital or this school open, when confronted with these demographics?”

    –Brian, NCPR

  9. Will Doolittle says:

    I am the author of the quote Peter cited about never hearing the argument before that the high quality of Adirondack high schools was a contributing factor in population loss, particularly in the young adult demographic. Well, I still find the argument pretty ridiculous. That a high percentage of local kids go to college does not seem to me to be a convincing explanation for why young adults do not return to the area after college, nor move to the area. One thing I believe young couples look at when deciding where to move is the quality of the local schools, so good schools should be attracting young families. But much more important are jobs, and Pete Klein is so right about that. Jobs are the key.
    Lots of rural areas aren’t doing so well, yes. How that consoles anyone who lives there (misery loves company?) is a mystery to me.
    Finally, Peter B. seems bent on lumping me in with a new group he has named, called the “Blame the Park crowd.” I have argued here, on the NCPR Inbox blog, in my own newspaper column and elsewhere, that the biggest challenges for the Adirondacks are its rural isolation, bad weather and lack of services and industry. I do not believe the existence of the Adirondack Park, nor the enforcement of Park zoning laws, is responsible for declining population in the Adirondacks, nor the shaky economies in many of its communities.

  10. Big Burly says:

    As always thought provoking.

    APRAP was for me a jolt, not to blame anyone, but to think about what needs to be done to assure viable communities within and on the periphery of the Blue Line.
    I presume that your group is focused on the Park per se. I also include peripheral counties and their communities that in many instances are job centers that support those of us who live within the Blue Line.

    When living in Vermont a few years back I studied the measured economic growth of the Mad River Valley. Spent time talking with the entrepreneurs from around the world who made the transition to build businesses and lifestyle.

    A couple of items from those conversations that I think support the type of analysis you have done:1) quality of life issues like safe surroundings, outdoor recreation opportunities, clean air, cultural amenities nearby; 2) hi speed, low ping broadband access, domestic and int’l destination airports nearby, and relatively short access times to the interstate network were deciding factors in relocation and investment decisions.

    The businesses that have been built and thrive are knowledge based. Folks with advanced levels of education want all the items in item 1 above.

    There is nothing in Vermont that the ADK north country doesn’t have more and better of in terms of aesthetic beauty and environmental appeal. VT’s Act 250 is more constraining than the APA. Yet the VT brand has been more effective in drawing investment and the knowledge economy workers.

    I think that the ADK Futures effort will succeed in hastening the transition we all need to make to assure the economic as well as environmental sustainability of the region.

    Thanks again for the data and analysis

  11. Erik says:

    This report form the USDA Economic Research Service: http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/population-migration/recent-population-change.aspx#.UcsaylIS18E may be enlightening as to the nationwide trend.

  12. Dave says:

    Great, sounds like you all agree. The Park is not the reason rural areas are struggling… the fact that they are rural areas is.

    I trust when you go back to your respective media outlets and write about these issues again you will focus on that and will provide the proper context for your readers.

  13. adkmike says:

    Right Dave, we agree the Park isn’t the reason our hamlets are struggling – it is the reason they should do better than your average rural area, no?

    It is odd to see Peter and Protect beating this old horse. What’s the point except to antagonize residents? And why would you want to do that? I’m mystified by Protect’s style approach.

  14. Don Dew jr. says:

    Reading this commentary by Peter Bauer reminds me of the book “How to Lie With Statistics” written by Darrell Huff. The book is humorous, but the issues facing those of us trying to business in Tupper Lake are anything but funny. I f

  15. Don Dew jr. says:

    I find Bauers definition of the blame the Park Lobby interesting also. It is his organization that is leading the Lawsuit on the APA approval of the ACR Resort in Tupper Lake. This action would lead me to believe he is not happy with the APA either.

  16. Kathryn Reinhardt says:

    You state, “The next decades could well see a contraction in total retirees living to the Adirondacks,” and I wonder if it is worth additional research on the number of senior citizen facilities in the Park and/or construction permits for 1 & 2 bedroom apartments/condos to assess future capacity? “Lewis Heights” housing on former PAFB will bring 88 new appts in Plattsburgh; Willsboro just opened an assisted living facility. These are local examples in my area that indicate more opportunities for seniors to stay in the Park throughout their lives.

  17. Finally took the time to read this – it’s an excellent analysis and interpretation of the data. We in Saranac Lake know we’ve been attracting some new residents and businesses and are doing what we can to keep our community alive and thriving. Looks like our school system is doing well too, in spite of the financial issues that all of education faces.

  18. Glenn L. Pearsall says:

    Reading Peter’s commentary I am reminded of the adage of how an amateur economic forecaster uses statistics is like a drunk leaning against a street light. He uses it more for support than illumination.

  19. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

    Brain Mann: Yes, I would agree that there is something to be learned from the communities that are growing. My back-of-the-napkin calculations show that around upstate NY the places that are growing keep growing and the places that are losing keep losing. Digging deeper into both trends could be valuable to see if there is a tipping point that can be found at both ends.

    Brian MOFYC: Sure, nothing to overreact to, but in the decades where the Park population grew there was little solace in positive numbers versus the overall narrative of negativity from the blame-the-Park choir. The challenge is how to use data for meaningful public policy.

    Pete Klein: Are schools that graduate higher percentages something to use as a draw for the Park? The City of Albany had a graduation rate of 49%, Binghamton 62%, Rochester 43%, Syracuse 51%, Utica 62%, and Buffalo 47%. Would some of these families fare better in the North Country?

    Will Doolittle: You state: “I do not believe the existence of the Adirondack Park, nor the enforcement of Park zoning laws, is responsible for declining population in the Adirondacks, nor the shaky economies in many of its communities.” Ok. Thanks for the clarification. But, the area’s decline will continue, with some communities prospering while others 30 miles away fail, pushed by national trends and forces.

    Big Burly. Thank you. Agreed. I’ve watched the VT branding success for years and thought that Green Mountain salsa and Green Mountain Coffee and Vermont Teddy Bear, to name just a few, could have just as easily been Adirondack salsa and Adirondack Mountain coffee and Adirondack Teddy Bear, but there’s a bigger story about start-up infrastructure and support/clustering of entrepreneurs, etc., to look into.

    Erik: good piece that you link to, especially the natural decrease data. Good reference.

    AdkMike: PROTECT is trying to bring some semblance of data-driven opinion to a public debate heavily driven by emotion and self-referential opinionating.

    Kathryn Reinhardt: Care for advanced aging is a tall task in the Park. We have only handful of facilities. The challenge of keeping people in advanced ages in their homes with support is something to take a hard look at because it appears that there will be a gowing demand for the next bunch of years.

    Sandra: Yes, schools are vital. But viable communities are those that have a range of amenities, including a strong arts community. And, in Saranac Lake they are lucky to have all your fine work with the arts!

    Glenn Pearsall: Very illuminating comments. Please be so kind to provide us all your analysis and please include the data that you base it upon. I’m sure you’ll help to advance the conversation in an important and meaningful way.

  20. Peter,

    Looks like you made it home safely from Indian Lake. I didn’t get a chance to say hello after the meeting.


  21. Glenn L. Pearsall says:

    My thoughts and analysis on this issue will appear in my next book “When Men and Mountains Meet: Stories of Hope and Despair in the Adirondack Wilderness after the American Revolution” which will hit the bookstores next month. My aim in writing the book was to help preserve the early cultural history of this place and, in so doing, helps all of us better understand the relationship between the land and year round communities here. Bill Mckibben has enthusiastically reviewed the book and concluded that it is “A fascinating look at the early history of a fascinating place. And a reminder that the remote Adirondacks were nonetheless part of an emerging republic, with all its glories and shames.”

  22. Charlie says:

    Hey Glenn! Will there be any hardbound copies of your book,or are they all going to be paper?

    • Glenn L. Pearsall says:

      Charlie, Just paperback copies. Advised by publisher that most folks will just not pay extra for hardbound these days. Am also considering e-version. Glenn

  23. Big Burly says:

    Point taken about start-up support.
    What VT econ dev folks saw earlier than most is the continuing trend to entrepreneurism. As a result the early waves in our generation moved to VT and made a success of their ideas. It is not however magic or unique to that beautiful state — lots of folks there now chaffing under an increasingly dictatorial legislature and confiscatory tax regime.
    I am seeing more signs of our education resources in the ADKs helping people discover whether they have that entreprenurial spark and will to succeed. Clarkson is one example, community colleges all across the north country are expanding their programs in applied learning.
    ANCA has great ideas about creating an Adirondack brand that have been stymied by regional infighting (who knew:)?), but may yet help those who create and make things from our surroundings, be more competitive in the marketplace.

  24. Charlie says:

    “Advised by publisher that most folks will just not pay extra for hardbound these days.”

    I pay extra for hardbound! That must make me a little different than most folks….no?

  25. Paul says:

    If the Forest Preserve is the reason the Park population is doing so well that is great. There is plenty of it. They are adding a bunch more. What is the problem? The threats that Protect and others are concerned about are getting harder and harder to find. That may be why these groups are struggling. They have gotten much of what they have wished for, they are becoming obsolete. Now having to turn to obscure legal battles and other tactics to keep the troops rallied. Pat yourselves on the back, grab your ultralight canoe and go have some fun. I can show you some brand new places to explore.

  26. New Data For The Adirondack Park Population Debate | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] This article was originally published on the Adirondack Almanack. […]

  27. kate says:

    No one is mentioning here the effects of climate change. I have been talking with folks in the southwest of the US who are discovering deterioration of the quality of the environment they sought because of lack of rainful, dust storms, use of fire retardants effecting air quality and over development. These are young folks. They know nothing about Adirondacks.There is a very large young population who could be potentially lured to our mountains.
    They just need to know about them.

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