Monday, January 25, 2021

Adirondack survey seeks feedback from potential residents

survey photoThe Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) recently partnered with Warren County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to commission a survey to determine the desire for potential new year-round residents to the Adirondacks. Camoin 310 of Saratoga Springs designed the survey and will compile the results. Click here for the survey link.

(UPDATE on 2/1/21: The survey is closed. Stay tuned for future updates on the results.)

The survey is targeted for people living outside of the Adirondack Park. Results will help commissioners understand the important factors which would allow someone to consider relocating to the Adirondacks. One goal is to study if remote working has the potential to increase the possibility of singles and families to move. Included are questions regarding the potential housing demands, which covers: rental and ownership, and where the price range demand is. Responses will also illustrate what amenities are necessary to attract new residents. This includes: childcare, broadband, and school systems, to name a few.

“With an evolving economy and a changing work environment, we must determine if there is an opportunity to grow the population of year-round residents in the Adirondacks,” said James Mckenna CEO of ROOST. “Many of our schools, services, and downtowns have the capacity to accommodate more year-round residents. Accurate data will provide the insight needed on a number of issues like housing (for existing and new residents) and the opportunity to become a more diverse population with a more diverse economy.”

Surveys will be sent out to contact lists from different organizations throughout the Adirondacks and on social media platforms.

“The Adirondack region has a unique appeal to people looking for healthy, safe, smaller communities with abundant open space and outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Jim Siplon, Interim President Economic Development Corporation of Warren County, NY. “We believe professional relocation could be an important new growth opportunity in these communities, and we are gathering data as a key part of our strategic plan. The Warren County EDC is eager to work with people who are considering the benefits of making their year-round homes in the Adirondacks.”

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101 Responses

  1. Lee Nellis says:

    What population is being sampled here? Unless the article is misleading, it appears that this “survey” is of a self-selected population of indeterminate size. How will it have any credibility whatsoever?

    • Erin Cass says:

      I have these same questions, Lee. I emailed the ROOST data analyst to ask about the methodology used. I am always looking for local examples to use in my PSC classes, but this looks like an example of how to not conduct a survey. Any results will be meaningless and could potentially be used to mislead, it would be unethical to use the data collected to make decisions if they are not actually using proper survey design.

      • Keep us posted, Erin, on what you find out!

      • Boreas says:

        How does one conduct a scientific survey on “people who MAY want to move to the area”? Random phone calls aren’t going to return much data, because there aren’t many people out there to survey. It isn’t like there is a waiting list. So who do you survey? Anyone who may show some interest? Hardly random. I wouldn’t be overly-critical of this particular survey. Not a lot is going to depend on it anyway. They are just trying to gather some information, not write a statistical thesis. Any results need to be viewed in this light. Not everything is a political conspiracy.

        • Lee Nellis says:

          Boreas: I haven’t read anyone saying this is a conspiracy.

          First, you could easily identify a population to survey properly. How about ADK Mountain Club members who live in zip codes outside the region? I wouldn’t do that, but it could be rigorous, you could at least make something of the results. As it is, ROOST may elicit all sorts of comments about what would be desirable from those who have no intention of moving, but do have an opinion.

          Survey research is not IMO (and my O is based on working on the issues of gateway communities for 40 years) the effective approach. But it has stimulated a conversation that reveals all the assumptions and misassumptions people have about how communities change, That’s useful and even a little entertaining.

          I have nothing against ROOST or any of its people or consultants. In fact, I appreciate their position and effort, their desire to be helpful. But this is the type of survey you send out when you know the answer, but also know that you don’t have much, if any, agency to address it.

          The experience in similar places throughout the US is quite clear. Attractive mountain communities will fill up with people of all ages IF there is decent affordable housing available. Taxes make no net difference. People will even put up with the NY DMV if they really want to come. Some people will telecommute, some will come with a job, but most will come and figure it out. Maybe they’ll string together two or three jobs, maybe they’ll get entrepreneurial and create their own income.

          But they won’t (can’t, really) come if there is no place they can afford to live. And having recently moved in, I can tell you there are almost no such places, even if you come with a more remunerative than usual job. Some of what we were shown should just be demolished. Almost none of it appeals to contemporary tastes in housing. Some of it is cheap, but the families who would come are not looking for cheap per se. They are hoping they can afford a certain quality of life and the right type of housing is a fundamental part of that. As has been pointed out, most of them want to take the kids and the dog hiking. Which means they do not want to spend every weekend and limited resources on a “fixer-upper.” Our market does not consist of people who enjoy re-grouting the tile.

          This is not about the local housing industry per se. It can’t scale up to what the demand could be, at least not in any relevant time frame. And it has a strong incentive to build for the upper end of the market.

          Nor is this about the APA and its regulations. Those regulations add value from the perspective of those who would come. If you travel to more loosely regulated places, what you will see is unaffordable exurban sprawl that detracts from the community’s long run appeal and functionality.

          The APA has rightly diminished the land supply for expensive and habitat-consuming sprawl. Judging by recent events, it is not doing enough. The land base for affordable housing is right here in our villages. I walk past vacant and underutilized lots and buildings every time I go out. The money spent on this “survey” could have been spent on rigorous build-out studies that would support efforts to create public-private partnerships that can provide housing that is genuinely affordable for folks with ordinary incomes. We could also adjust the tax system to make it difficult to hold land for speculative gain.

          What needs to be done is clear. If you can find a place that had the political will to do it, you will see that it works. It usually works more slowly than you’d like, but it works. Recent event and rhetoric show that we Americans are trapped in inaccurate perceptions about how markets, particularly housing markets, which are complex, work and about the value of collective action. You don’t have to be a socialist to cooperate in making your community a better place.

          • Boreas says:

            In addition, pandemic real estate value increases are making it more difficult for the average Joe to move here. At least in the short term. In my area, real estate values have yet to get back to pre-recession levels. And of course, long-term rentals can be difficult to find. Affordable housing is certainly an issue.

  2. Boreas says:


    It is a survey, not a scientific poll.

    • Lee Nellis says:

      So you are spending all that time and money on something that will not yield defensible results?

      • Boreas says:

        It isn’t my survey or my money. Some call it spit-ballin’. How would you do it? I am sure ROOST would welcome suggestions.

  3. Jeep says:

    Lol! Why are people leaving NYS instead of moving to it? you need a survey???

  4. Mick Finn says:

    I’d live in NYS if it wasn’t socialist.

    • Jeep says:

      Well all the research I can find has NYS listed as 49th best state to retire? Jersey winning the honors as worst! Go figure?

      • Drew P Weiner says:

        I would think that NYS’S dismissal ability to respond to the Covid pandemic plays a big role in it’s poor ratings in best States to retire standings

    • Drew P Weiner says:

      I read somewhere that socialism works until you run out of other peoples money. From what I seem to be seeing is the people with the money are fleeing New York State, leaving the state to try collecting the same amount of funds from the ones who have less to give.

    • Steve B. says:

      So you’re saying where you live you don’t have things like fire departments, sewer service, garbage pickup, phone service, post office, highway department ??

      All those things are “social services”, provided to the community for the public good.

      Let’s not mention Social Security and Medicare.

      That’s what Socialism brings you.

      • Boreas says:

        Steve B,

        I agree – but don’t forget about what socialism ISN’T. It ISN’T people living and dying on the streets without healthcare while billionaires sit on the majority of the nation’s wealth demanding more. It ISN’T the destruction of unions and the middle class. NYS socialist? Hardly. Someone is just listening to too much Rush…

        • Jeep says:

          Right! Just look at Venezuela! Shining example of socialism at its best!

          • Wayno says:

            I would say Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany are closer to the kind of “socialism” most progressives are interested in. They don’t want the government to control the means of production, they just want a more equitable distribution of the wealth. These countries have healthy capitalistic economies with sufficient social safety net so people get the health care they need , even if they get laid off, put food on their tables and can afford an education. No one in this country is looking at Venezuela as a model, they’re looking at western Europe and Scandinavia and seeing that we can do better.

            • Balian the Cat says:

              Wayno, the nuances of reality have lost their appeal to a lot of folks. If you don’t support Donald Trump and his broadly ignorant brand of populism, you’re a Marxist. It doesn’t matter whether that’s true or real or even possible – it just is.

  5. JT says:

    I live in St. Lawrence County. One of the biggest reasons people either leave the area, or do not want to come here to live is the long winters. Another reason is lack of stores for shopping.

    • ADKresident2 says:

      At last, a relevant comment!

    • Boreas says:

      If this area appealed to everyone, it would look like Schenalbatroy. Is that what we want?

    • Jeep says:

      Yea must be the weather! That’s why Idaho continues to grow in population

      • Jeep says:

        Let’s look closer to home. New Hampshire for example, as it continues to flourish both economically and socially! Yup gotta be that New York weather!

        • JT says:


          Weather is just one factor. I personally know people, mostly retirees who leave for warmer climates because they are tired of shoveling snow and driving on icy roads.
          As far as Idaho and NH, I suspect they are more business friendly and offer more high paying jobs than the ADK’s.
          Those people who do not like the winter will stick it out for that high paying job.
          As you can see from the comments, some people, including myself like the winter but don’t think we make up the majority.

      • Boreas says:

        Ever been to Idaho? Pretty nice there.

  6. Vanessa says:

    Good survey. I’ve already said a lot on this topic. But for these comments I’ll add: some of us want to move here FOR the winters. Fall and winter are my fav ADK seasons. Also, I am getting quite used to not shopping too often due to the pandemic…

    • Boreas says:

      Good points. Winter WAS my favorite season here (no bugs), but the older I get, the less I like it. Unfortunately, I moved here 30 years too late.

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Steve B. says: ” fire departments, sewer service, garbage pickup, phone service, post office, highway department…All those things are “social services” provided to the community for the public good. Let’s not mention Social Security and Medicare. That’s what Socialism brings you.

    > Let us not forget public education also which many homeowners gripe about saying, “why should I pay taxes for other peoples kids to go to school when I don’t have any kids in school?” Public education, or common schools, has been an instrument of New York since at least the 1830’s. I find it to be a very interesting history and it’s just too bad the way we’re going. Back in them long ago days it was all about intellectualism, stimulating, perking up the children with intelligence. This is what the educators strived back then, they bent over backwards to achieve this, they taught the sciences, natural history, astronomy, morals….. It was a different society than what we have today for sure, and if I could snap my fingers to go back in time I would pick the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s. They were so smart back then, their literature is fascinating, the generation of innovators who gave us most of what we have today, including public education.

    These people who gripe about their tax dollars going to support other children’s education, they were educated under the same system that their parents paid for and every generation before them going back to the early1800’s…..and they gripe because they don’t really care about the education of other people’s children when it comes to their tax dollars. Call it socialism call it what you want, but it has been working up until these past some generations or longer. At one time in this country people were very giving and considerate of their neighbors and whomever the stranger was that came along. It wasn’t always perfect but it wasn’t what it is today neither. This country sure as heck isn’t what it started out to be and if anybody reads the history they would know this. We are a self-centered race which is doomed to fail the way we’re going it’s only a matter of time. The past four years was a very good reminder of which direction we are headed unless we get our ship in order soon!

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Vanessa says: “some of us want to move here FOR the winters. Fall and winter are my fav ADK seasons.”

    Yes of course…the seasons. Also the woods and rolling hills, the open fields, and all of the beautiful country up here, the rural landscape, the clear meandering streams, the history, the architecture, the food, the state parks….. the good people too. In ten lifetimes you couldn’t do it all.

  9. Zephyr says:

    The #1 reason people leave the Adirondacks or don’t move there is because of the lack of jobs. On the other side of the coin I see lots of retirees moving to the area, and very recently people who can WFH. Of course that is limited to places that have broadband. Build out broadband and/or 5G cell service and you’ll be able to attract remote workers with high-tech jobs. Those people also happen to be very enthusiastic hikers, skiers, etc.

  10. Joan Grabe says:

    We started coming to Sanibel Florida in 1979 and built a house in 1984. In 2005 I became legal resident here because we were spending most of the winter here and for the tax structure in Florida. In 2005 we bought property in Saranac Lake and built a house. We spend 3 pretty idyllic months there every summer. But I can see the difficulty in attracting people to this area to work and live altho the Covid pandemic has proven that people will come and stay in the North Country – the real estate market proves that. Lake Placid was bursting at the seams this summer and all the hiking trails were overcrowded but we don’t have to sell Lake Placid to prospective residents. It sells itself – prosperous, beautiful, gorgeous homes, services, good internet, great schools, Whiteface, the lake etc. it is the less glossy, grittier towns and hamlets that could use a population boost and cities like Plattsburgh that have all the amenities plus good transportation, airport, the Northway, easy access to Europe via Montreal when the border opens that should be selling itself as a good place to WFH and live in this beautiful area for all it offers winter and summer. You might want to compare this area to Coeur d’ Alene – it looks a lot like the Adirondacks but it is Aryan Nation with no diversity initiatives. I assume the study that put NY and NJ at the end of the list was one that was comparing tax rates for individuals and businesses and maybe sales taxes etc. Our taxes in the North East, with NH as an exception, have always been high and the area is losing population to Texas and South Carolina and Florida but it is not all skittles and beer down here either. Out talented college graduates tend to go north and west but young people have always migrated to the bright lights and better jobs and wages. In the Adirondacks we need the middle demographic of job holders with children for our schools who will be active in our communities and by being here, attract others.There is not an over night solution but the community should survey the situation and see how business and private initiatives can come together to solve some of the problems that the survey uncovers. I suspect that, as we already know, it is jobs, jobs, jobs. As usual, I enjoy the comments more than the original article and I thank the Adirondack Almanac for giving us this forum.

    • Zephyr says:

      I’ve lived in various states up and down the East Coast and the supposed tax problem in New York is overblown for many people. For example, you might save on income tax but take a look at things like annual excise tax on your cars. I had to pay $400+ a year in property tax on a Ford Escort in SC. Plus there was sales tax on groceries. In any case, taxes tend to be less important than other items in your cost of living, like housing, etc. Bottom line for me is I choose a place to live by where I want to live for other reasons, and the taxes are secondary.

      • Boreas says:

        I agree. Different states have different tax structures. In addition, what is often overlooked is NYS essentially supports most states with smaller economies through federal taxes and revenue sharing. We send federal tax dollars out while other states RECEIVE those funds in one form or another. This has gone on forever. If NYS dollars stayed within the state and WE received net federal tax dollars instead, perhaps our taxes wouldn’t be so burdensome. Don’t hold your breath waiting for tax reform at the federal level.

  11. Steve B. says:

    I think I’m the kind of person the “survey” is oriented to. I’m nearing retirement, we “may” decide to relocate if only as neither my wife nor I really likes living on Long Island, thought there some area’s out on the eastern parts with a lots of open land that’s all state or county park and preserve.

    In truth and even though I visit the Adirondacks a few times per year and have done so for near 50 years, I doubt I’d move there and mostly as the winters are harsh. My general thought is I won’t live someplace where I have to plug in my car at night if I want to use it the next day.

    Otherwise, there’s a lot to offer including vast area’s to explore, very few people and otherwise beautiful scenery. The black flies and mosquito’s might drive me away though.

    I’ve spent a lot of seasons in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area and would be more likely to move there. Winter and summer weather less onerous, beautiful scenery, some cheap area’s to buy into. Lot’s of the west is like that, no water though, that’s an ongoing issue.

    • Boreas says:

      Love Santa Fe/Taos area!! Same with Utah. The sun shines out west sometimes. And who needs humidity?

      • Steve B. says:

        And water is highly overrated

        • Boreas says:

          Drink it if ya got it! When I lived on the reservation in Browning, MT outside Glacier NP, the tap water was white. You get used to it…

          • Steve B. says:

            The SW has had an ongoing drought going back 25 years. Climate change has exasperated this problem. There are some regions where it’s less a problem then places like Las Vegas (which is f***ed IMO). If I am serious, I’d look away from populated areas that would be less likely to see sprawl. Something out in the country with its own supply.

  12. JB says:

    I get that Adirondack Almanack/Explorer is obliged to put out lots of stories on the desire of communities within the Park to grow their local economies, partly because there are people and governments who would benefit tremendously from that. And to satisfy the detractors of the Park, who say that wilderness conservation and economic growth are mutually exclusive. But I don’t hear a lot of the other side of the argument these days (in these comments or otherwise). I dare say that maybe we are learning that conservation and economic growth are mutually exclusive at one point, but that this is the main reason for creating forest preserve. It seems like people unilaterally celebrate the idea of seeing a huge influx of people. Maybe they think the that APA or lack of private inholdings will be a limiting factor, but however good-intentioned everyone is, institutions and land use change when the will of the people changes. Case in point: drive 2 hours south to Kiryas Joel (not being anti-semitic). 40 years ago it was 600 acres of woods. Now there are 20,000 people living on that 600 acres, with one of the youngest, fastest growing–and impoverished–populations in the country. Or what about the huge industrial wilderness outposts that popped up in the former Soviet Union when the government decided that they needed to populate those areas to boost economic output, in many cases displacing the former inhabitants. If data starts coming out saying that the number of people within the Park is changing the “wilderness character”, will we do anything? Would we pass legislation like the Adirondack Park Act today, or have we changed too much since Rockefeller signed that law 50 years ago? Capitalists and communists alike expound the virtues of growth, but what about degrowth? I know that there are people who have good reasons to be living in the Park and want financial stability (I am one of them), and that the aforementioned cases are extreme examples of what can happen, but we should be careful what we wish for. Sorry if I come off as mean-spirited, but I wanted to join in, and It’s hard to get my opinion across any other way (maybe that is why no one says similar things?)

    • Zephyr says:

      Good point, but some towns are getting so old and losing so many young people that it might not be possible to continue to live there unless you are totally self-sufficient and willing to drive an hour or more to get groceries, etc. When the school closes that just about eliminates any new families moving in or staying in the area. Then the stores begin to close, the gas station, the Stewarts, whatever is there goes away. Some people don’t want that, but I suppose others do. I’ve driven through some places out West that have been almost deserted where you can pick up an old house for next to nothing, but there is also no open store within 50 miles.

      • JB says:

        Yeah, there are many areas that are 30+ miles to a store within the Park, but my argument is that this is the whole point of the Park, or at least for the zoning regulations enforced by the APA. The creation of that organization was necessitated by the increase in planned development within the blue line, and you would think that with our modern environmentally-conscious, “evolved” mindset we would be celebrating that. But all I see these days is “population is increasing”, “business is booming”, “real-estate is booming”, “crowds are booming” followed by “this is great, we need to increase this”. I’m surprised that there is no (or little) counter-argument. That’s what I was venting about before.

        The school districts here are huge, with some of the longest school bus routes in the state. I’ve never heard of anywhere that people actually live where they can’t get the county to send out a bus to take their children to school, although it is certainly possible. But I don’t think that it would justify constructing new towns or schools there. I do know that most of the schools serving those districts are very small, and they have been struggling already with the extra students this year. Populations generally don’t concentrate in remote areas (unless there is an extractive industry), since it is expensive or impossible to build infrastructure and maintain, let alone without destroying the “wilderness character”, which the Adirondack Park Act seeks to protect. And thus far, at least, it has been relatively successful in that regard.

        I guess if the state government wanted to, they could relocate people and subsidize the creation of communities more than they already do. I think that the government is on the fence about that. On one hand, data is coming out saying, “(some) animals are being overhunted (wait till they release last year’s numbers) and trapped”, “we advertised the Adirondacks too much”, “we built too many trails and campgrounds (and people are littering, introducing invasives, and getting themselves into trouble)”, “there are too many septic tanks leaking into lakes”, “we overfished the lakes and streams, then overstocked them (and dodged a bullet with almost spreading those Zebra mussels)”, and so on. On the other hand, people (of all races and creeds) are saying, “we need social and community equity”, “we need more people”, “we are being persecuted and left out”, “we need growth”. Maybe we need a place, just one place, to leave alone.

        I understand that the Adirondacks is the State of New York’s crown jewel. I understand that there are thousands of people who live there, some of whom have been there for generations. I understand that it is not a class A wilderness preserve or wildlife refuge. But it is pretty nice how it is, right?

        Right after I posted that comment yesterday, I saw an article in TIME talking about “doughnut economics”, the idea that we need to elevate the collective quality of life of humans, but that we need to intentionally create upper bounds dictated by how well we want to preserve our environment, or in some cases, how well we need to preserve our environment due to the fact that we can only affect it so much without compromising our own survival. The argument goes that first-world countries are living well above the quality of life that the environment can sustain, while third-world countries are well-below it (both outside the doughnut). So, although social-justice and growth are political agendas, they should not be our only (or if I’m brave, first) priority in the Western world.

  13. Zephyr says:

    The untold story behind this survey is the greying of America, particularly rural areas. This is happening all over the country. Young people are fleeing rural areas in search for good jobs, which tend to be located in urban areas. Retirees are moving to the Adirondacks, but some towns have had to close schools because of the shrinking younger population. In Japan, which is experiencing this problem big time, some towns have been shut down because there just weren’t enough younger people to do the work of a town: keep the water and electric running, collect the trash, clear the roads. I’m afraid that this problem is mostly beyond the ability of Adirondack towns to influence, except for the possibility of attracting younger workers who can work from home. That necessitates broadband and cell phone access. That is the place communities should focus their efforts if they want to attract good paying jobs with a future.

  14. Balian the Cat says:

    Populations – human and otherwise – rise and fall as a matter of course. There are examples of former communities, settlements, and outposts all over the ADKs and everywhere else people have lived, worked, migrated through in history. It’s hubris to think that “ancient ruins” are something that only happens to other civilizations. Food, money, industry, arable land, they all ebb and flow. Trying to prop these systems up artificially never works long term. Introduce this and you’ll put that out of balance. It’s just the way it works, no matter how badly we want things to stay the same forever.

  15. DPC says:

    BtheC: I very much agree. Settlement comes and goes; indeed, so do entire civilizations. So why be concerned about a permanent population in the Adirondacks? JB has the right idea. Let the Adirondack Park be a place for wildlife and wilderness, as well as hearty souls who wish to live in a rugged landscape w/o broadband, 5G cell service, and the rest of it. There are other beautiful rural places to live outside the park, like the St. Lawrence River Valley, Tug Hill, and Eastern Lake Ontario. Let the park be a park.

    Someone mentioned Sanibel Island. My brother moved there 20 years ago because it was a relatively uncrowded area with a lot of protected land and wildlife. But the local chamber of commerce always wants more economic growth and more people. The island has become congested and driving the bike paths can be is hazardous. Is this what we want for the ADKs?

    If people want growth, jobs, and a better economy, may I suggest they direct their efforts to poor areas outside the park. I would welcome them where I live, just a few miles beyond the Blue Line.

    • Joan Grabe says:

      I mentioned Sanibel Island and during season we are inundated with day visitors who come for our glorious beaches in glorious weather and our Causeway Islands where you can pull your car or van or trailer almost
      up to the water’s edge just off the Causeway road and enjoy
      the day. Yes, our bike paths are crowded with happy residents ( I recognize a lot as I drive around ) and bike renters. The multi use bike paths are flat, paved and have drinking fountains and shady off path nooks. During said season the traffic on island in the morning is congested as is the traffic off island in the late afternoon – workers mostly. It is pretty idyllic and built out. This is as bad as it will get because all available large tracts of land are sequestered either by the Ding Darling National Preserve or by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. This sounds analogous to the Adirondacks where large tracts of land are owned by the state or protected by Conservation easements. I love Sanibel while I am here and I love Saranac Lake when I am there but I know the problems both places face in the future and I am glad to see the Adirondack population energized and ready to become activists preserving and improving the place they love !

      Hs are

  16. Bill Ott says:

    The editorial staff posted this article Monday and the survey link is dead on Friday. I wanted to at least read the survey if not respond to it. I wonder when the link died, who killed it, and where it is buried so I could at least examine the body.

  17. Vanessa says:

    Huh didn’t realize that this thread was still going strong. Survey also says “closed” for me too today. Anyway – lots of thoughts here have inspired me to add the following…

    … a “degrowth” mindset is actually a hallmark of the modern left and something i entirely agree with. i don’t call myself either a capitalist or anti-capitalist, or anything “ist,” frankly, but i sure have spent a whole lot of my adult life so far thinking about the flawed way that America approaches market-based economics. You can credit my “North Country” college education for this 😀

    But anyway – if we want an area to stay rural or even de-grow – for better or worse, it needs a structure of stakeholders that support this idea, typically through government. All of the park within the line already has this, which has already limited development greatly.

    In fact, i’d say that the ADK is one of the most unique places in the country in that there is such a strong state-sponsored push to limit growth in the region. again, i don’t think that’s bad…

    …but i think it necessitates a LOT more work necessary to incentivize anyone who can contribute to a taxbase to do so. As in, you HAVE to actively recruit people because it’s going to be hard to get them to move for economic reasons. economics is why i haven’t pulled the trigger yet. i think for all of the discussion on this topic, people don’t often realize what a tough “ask” it is for someone under 40 to move someplace where career prospects are, well, complicated, to say the least…

    As has been said, the internet will be a critical game changer here and once there is reliable high-speed internet in a greater portion of the area, economics WILL kick in and you’ll have folks coming from more expensive, urban areas.

    • JB says:

      Haha, yeah degrowth…I knew someone would pick up on that, but considered adding in “anti-neoliberalism” for good measure. I think that anywhere in upstate NY outside of the major commercial centers looks very much like most Adirondack towns in terms of lack of an economy. In fact, many of those areas are doing even worse, and have lower median incomes and school districts that are not as well-funded as some that are entirely within the park. That is partially because the state already pays out high property taxes on state lands PLUS various additional funds (specifically to compensate for the loss of tax base) PLUS the added draw for tourists that the state land has created. There are people who live inside the park and commute outside to work who have a shorter commute than people living elsewhere do. Funny thing is, they don’t complain in non-Adirondack rural towns too much about underfunded schools and such, because they’re Trump country and can’t blame environmentalists. There is no “wokeness” for their cause, since outsiders don’t strive as much to move there.

      There are some great people living in the park, and having them as neighbours is really nice. Individual cases of people moving in where they legally can is inevitable and I have no problems there. The United States has very strong private-property laws that people should take full advantage of. There are private properties that are better treated than the public lands. It is the concept of systematically putting even more funds into subsidizing these communities to grow, while simultaneously spending time and resources on limiting their growth, that I have trouble with.

      There are some places within the park that have state-of-the art internet faster than anything (because of subsidies). But in those areas there are typically no true suburban-style developments with vacant fancy houses that are move-in ready, which is what people want. There would be if some forward thinking people didn’t foresee the demand we have today, and why that is a bad thing. Either way, traditionally impoverished people could not pick up and move to the park and have a good quality of life…Such ideal houses would be expensive due to limited supply…People accustomed to city life would be overwhelmed trying to maintain their own well and septic, maintain cars, plow their private roads, deal with power outages since you are surrounded by billions of trees trying to take down power lines, not have Walmart near by since they are not economical or even legal to build, etc. I think anywhere in the world where you have large areas that are ecologically protected from consumerism, especially in temperate forested ecoregions, it is because, although possible to live there, it is not easier than living elsewhere. That is the philosophy behind banning motor-vehicles in protected wildernesses worldwide as well. That is why it is a place of great power and life, which we cannot forget….Non-human agency, another big word. If you tamper with it, you will ruin it. Rambling on and on…

      • Vanessa says:

        Right – I agree that there are NY towns outside the park that do not have the same protection structure as the ADK and also need a lot of help, and have a lot less “natural” (as in, awesome nature near-by) incentives to inspire anyone to move out there. My mom was born & raised in Oneida Castle, NY – somewhat near Syracuse – and her grandparents etc going back a while were all subsistence farmers. She was the first person in the family to get enough of an education to have an opportunity outside of town.

        And yeah, it is *super* Trump country out there. People think the ADKs are tilting right – but rural places with less urban influence are careening there. I’ve driven through Oneida Castle once in my life. Could I envision a future there for my mixed-race family? …not so much, if I’m brutally honest. I grew up in a place very much like Oneida Castle, rural and poor. A lot of people think I chose to live in a city – but I haven’t lived yet in a place I’ve chosen, due to the necessity of finding work. Most people don’t, rural or urban.

        And so the more social incentives that can be put in place to live somewhere, the more you’ll get an engaged local folks in shaping that place, and I like that very very much about many parts of the Park. I’d be more than willing to reduce motor vehicle use and have cold winters and forego central AC. Don’t assume that because some of us may live in a city, that we don’t know how to manage a septic tank, lol 😀

        • JB says:

          Oh wow, you know how to use a septic tank? “Good job!!!” Haha, just kidding. That’s not how I meant it. I meant that most people do not realize how expensive living in the countryside is. A problem with a well on some mountain properties could set you back more than the cost of some houses. And not like, “rent is going to be higher”…More like “we need more money or we are going to have to move”. And driving less is not an option for most people in the park. If the argument for more government funding for “social incentives” is that it will further social justice by allowing people who couldn’t otherwise afford it to live here, that does not make any sense. You could improve the lives of thousands of people in a city for the same cost as improving maybe a few dozen peoples’ lives within the park, and all without negatively impacting the environment. The idea that there is a lacking for social support networks in the park is also not true, people rely on each other here more than in bigger cities, and also, the state pumps huge amounts of cash into park communities already, as I said before. Other places could use it more. And better yet, spend more money on well thought-out conservation efforts. Other communities in other states actually have the problem that people have fabricated for the communities within Adirondack Park–they do not get tax money for the public lands within their boundaries. I don’t think said government interventions here in the park would benefit the collective, or even oppressed, population, let alone the environment. And government spending money for any other purpose is akin to nepotism.

          The state was heavily promoting the Adirondack Park as its crown jewel for years through advertising. I don’t live in a major city where they have had ADK billboards, but I do know they stopped advertising on TV a couple of years ago because of the attractive nuisance that it has helped turn the High Peaks into. I think that the state government is going in the right direction very slowly on some of these issues, despite my criticisms…But COVID, cottagecore, and “woke” movement could be a perfect storm for the environmental fate of the park if they manage to hijack the state government. I like that DPC referred to re-wilding (although I disagree with the heavy-handedness in terms of species reintroductions and habitat management proposed by some notable authors), and since my initial post in horror, they and others have proven to be very intelligent, forward thinking individuals. I will add that cottagecore and the “woke” movement will not help anything in the long run, quite the opposite…And they are completely antithetical to the very deep ecological and decolonial aims that they claim to further. They represent the “Society of the Spectacle” at its very worst. Drawing from decolonial theory: Do the non-human actors involved consent to these new agendas that we have the media (in the Marxist sense of the word) to thank for? Definitely not. Asking that sort of question is important now.

          P.S. Thank you for allowing this avenue for free expression, Adirondack Almanack

    • DPC says:

      Re-wild might be a better term than degrowth. Less anthropocentric. A stable or declining human population is not necessarily a “degrowth” for other species. And what we are talking about also maintains opportunities for re-wilding the human spirit.

      While it may be true re-wilding “needs a structure of stakeholders that support this idea”, there’s no reason stakeholders need to be permanent residents. Both protection and poverty are often created by stakeholders who live elsewhere.

      There’s also no reason to think greater economic opportunity is a precondition for promoting ecosystem protection, whether the stakeholders live inside the park, outside, or both. While everyone wants a reasonable standard of living, conservationists are often satisfied with less in the way of materialism.

      Finally, we must keep in mind that poverty has a shifting baseline when viewed in historic context. Today’s consumers (especially in cities) expect better transportation, communication, health care, and housing than those who lived before them. Yet all forms of materialism compromise the natural world in some way, eventually.

      • Balian the Cat says:

        And, in the vein of that should go without saying, there is more to the notion of not compromising the natural world than can be measured by political affiliations. It seems simple to say that without air to breathe, water to drink, and soil to sustain agriculture we shall all perish this earth – but it is an inescapable truth. This sort of talk will undoubtedly be met with anti-environmentalist snark, but we have already arrived at a place of over fished, plastic compromised seas, inhumane and chemical dependent industrial agriculture, and weather patterns altered in un-forcastable ways. Conservationists of the Aldo Leopold mold who manage with less materialism should be the model for all who wish to preserve their known way of life.

      • Vanessa says:

        I agree with like 98% percent of this, thank you for the comment. I would heavily argue here and elsewhere that materialism =/= a higher standard of living, not at all. People confuse that in all places, but it seems especially endemic to the Western world, rural or urban.

        However, some need for materials is also a natural human function. On these cold mornings lately I have seen the squirrels outside hustling piles of leaves together to add to their nests because they’re cold. Is that materialism? We could frame this as a conflict with nature but because they’re squirrels, we don’t.

        I think the survival of humanity as a species will depend on our ability to get back into harmony with nature, and sync our material needs with the sustainability of eco-systems. And yes, that will necessitate a voluntary reduction in consumerism the likes of which we don’t really comprehend super well at the moment.

        • Balian the Cat says:

          Your point is well taken, Vanessa. I am not referring to the collection of local firewood or subsistence needs here. I am suggesting that my need for a new cell phone every 18 months despite the fact that three people died in the collection of the rare earth minerals involved in it’s production is an unsustainable drive. Local folks used to drive a $800 pickup truck for 10 years, now we get a new $45k dollar one every time the dealer tells us it’s available. As we can neither create or destroy matter everything comes from something and goes to something. The balance is at a tipping point.

  18. Zephyr says:

    Another unwritten story behind these types of surveys is there is a lot of pressure from realtors, chamber’s of commerce, and other big business people who want development at all costs because it means more money for them. They’ll dress it up by adding the word “sustainable” to anything, like sustainable tourism, sustainable development, or sustainable tourism. But what they mean is we want more, more, more and if we have to put a green wash on it we will! It would be interesting to try for an actual scientific survey of the residents of the Adks to see what they really want, but you can look at elections as a proxy for a survey. The area isn’t monolithic at all. I suspect the fine people of Hamilton County might feel differently than those living in Lake Placid. Having lived in many different tourist-dependent areas and knowing quite a few people who live in the Adks in different places I would guess that most hate development that is close to where they live, but they also want tourists to come, spend money, then go home. They don’t really want new neighbors moving in from other places, but they welcome new money being spent in the area. They also moan endlessly about the state not doing this or that. Meanwhile, I believe something like 60% of all jobs in Hamilton County are in one layer or another of state or local government. Plus the state payments in lieu of taxes on Forest Preserve lands, free additional policing by Forest Rangers and State Police, snowplowing by the state, etc. are significant parts of the overall economy. In other words, it’s a conundrum. Most ordinary people don’t want new people near them, but they do want people to send money so they can afford to keep living where there are no people.

    • Boreas says:


      There is another type of development that is fairly unique to our area – past, present, and possibly future – prisons. Think how much of the economy in “poorer” counties depend on incarceration. Where would we be without the “war on drugs”? What happens when weed is (gasp!) legalized? Perhaps turn prisons into grow-rooms?

      • Vanessa says:

        This is a “fun” topic i’m hoping to get a chance to write about in the Almanack someday. And by “fun” i mean “batten down the hatches for a comments section for the ages” – because change is afoot here for the next 20-30 years regardless of what anyone wants.

        i would want to write something grounded in as local a history as possible, so much more research needed before i feel my voice would be authoritative. but it bears talking about, for sure.

        • Bill Ott says:

          It is not often a thread survives dropping off the cliff to the second page. In fact, I once used that phenomenon to pass my e-mail address to another reader. Really not too much to do, obviously. Keep it going.

          • Vanessa says:

            Another snow storm on the way, so until you need to shovel, indeed there isn’t much to do at the moment ?

          • DPC says:

            Bill: Since you want to keep it going, here’s a question for you: Is it possible that the incentives Vanessa desires will attract non-conservationists, that is, people with great material aspirations and low regard for ecosystem preservation? If so, isn’t that a threat to the natural world of the Adirondacks? Or is a cycle of greater and greater economic growth, the kind experienced in beautiful places elsewhere, just not likely here? I think it important to keep in mind that our land-use protections are not immune to pressure from those who want access and development.

            • Bill Ott says:

              DPC: I’ll get back to you next month.

            • Vanessa says:

              yeah, perhaps there’s some danger of that. but i feel like the economic incentive to develop is a commercial one, not residential. and a stronger APA would help fight it, but then we’re getting into an entirely different kettle of angry fish…pardon the mixed metaphor, i think?

              the Almanack homepage does list the 5 most recent comments. so not entirely hidden, we aren’t…

            • Bill Ott says:

              DPC: Yes, I believe non-conservationists would come in believing they love the wilderness as they destroy it. The APA could and does prevent this from happening. A local real estate developer would have a better answer

  19. Henry Grant says:

    JB and DPC are on the right track here. Back in the 80’s I lived on a remote Adirondack lake. It was such pure water. Pristine like spring water. A couple decades, and a few hundred houses later and now the water is so polluted with chemicals that it is not suitable for drinking. This is due primarily to the fact that everyone lives off septic and the chemicals they rinse down the drain inevitably end up in the ground water. Many people also spray their yards with weed killers, oil runs off from the roads and oil leaks in from all the motor boats.

    I commend DPC and JB for their ethics and for helping raise awareness of this problem of water pollution. It is such a blessing to have one of the last wilderness preserves in the country that still retains some pure waters. A high population in the Adirondacks will inevitably result in the usual desecration of water that always happens with high population. In the words of the famous British poet, W.H. Auden, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”.

    • Zephyr says:

      Per Henry’s comment, if you think water pollution is a problem now imagine what it was like back in the day when the extraction industries like logging and mining were going strong and the population was much larger in some of these places! There are solutions to human water pollution, and they are illustrated by the vast improvements seen in many places like the Hudson River. Near where I live there are many more developments and probably thousands of new homes yet some small local waterways are now beautifully clear and home to thriving wildlife. I sampled those same waters when in high school as part of an environmental project and they were toxic, grey miasmas.

      • DPC says:

        Zephyr: Your comment reminds me of waste poured into the Ausable by the Rogers mill in Ausable Forks, back in the early decades of the 20th century. Or the havoc on the Grasse from former settlements like Newbridge and Clarksboro. I’m glad those rivers are cleaner today, and I’m glad the Hudson is, too.No-one wants to visit or live near polluted water.

        The question in the back of my mind is whether or not a larger permanent population is necessary or even desirable in the Adirondack Park. We are not talking about places outside the Blue Line, like where you live or where I live. As I’ve said before, settlements come and go, historically. So what if human population is presently stable or declining, given the Adirondacks are a large wilderness park?

        Residential development like the projects proposed in the 1970s were thought to be a threat to to the natural beauty and by extension the ecosystem of the Adirondacks. So while you and I might be OK with new homes where we live, do we really want them inside the park?

        • Henry Grant says:

          Good evening DPC. I just woke up from a nap and was pleasantly surprised to see your wonderful comment. It’s a pleasure to speak with you on here…

          Do we really want new homes inside the park? Certainly not on any sort of large scale. That would absolutely devastate the waters.

          As a toxicologist, I can tell you that the Hudson River is still absolutely devastated and the water is still completely unsafe to drink. I wouldn’t recommend you plan fishing trips anytime there soon. My aunt actually lives there and has had some close calls. Yet imagine if it was stagnant with only 10 water change-outs per year, like the lakes in the Adirondacks. The sediment is just destroyed too. Logging could never do that. We’re talking about a whole new level of pollution these artificial compounds are causing.

      • Henry Grant says:

        Hi Zephyr. I hope your days going well and you’re staying warm in these frigid temperatures. My sister in laws name’s actually Zephyr. Small world isn’t it…

        The most polluted lakes in the Adirondacks are the ones which have septic tanks surrounding them. This is a fact. As a toxicologist, I can tell you that the biggest threats to the environment are the ones that you can’t see, smell or taste. What were you using in high school GCMS?

        Most people love to blame climate change and corporate industries for water pollution because they themselves are not directly responsible for it. Yet everything they flush down their drains ends up in the environment. Places downstream of septic or utilities in the Adirondacks are known to be full of micro plastics and septic related compounds. Yes, climate change causes mercury deposition and acid rain, but I would much rather treat patients with this slight mercury exposure than with, for example, related diseases from exposures to biocides, phthalates, PFCs, pharmaceuticals, and a vast variety of other toxic chemicals from cosmetic products people are using, all of which are flushed down every drain in virtually every household. While these have been proving to cause cancers, neurologic deficits and developmental changes in humans, the harms that they cause to sensitive wildlife is even higher. Many of my colleagues have made tremendous strides in this area so there is plenty of literature out there.

        Warm wishes,

  20. Lee Nellis says:

    Jumping back in here: A point that is easily missed when thinking about the balance between economic development and preservation in places like these mountains is that you can’t maintain the same level of community services without a more or less even number of younger people. As the Adirondack towns age, and they are, the number of volunteers for every function will decline even if the population remains constant. It could even grow, if the growth is in the form of retirees, and still not be able to support the current services. It also becomes difficult to maintain functional schools as the number of students declines, which again is happening even with a bit of growth. Finding a way to attract a modest number of younger families would support robust community services and schools. And there isn’t much tradeoff with environmental quality, IF those families are housed in existing villages that have central utilities. There is a realistic scenario in which we could tighten the rules on exurban land development and still help stabilize at least the major communities within the park. Does the political will to enact that scenario exist?

    • Henry Grant says:

      Hey Lee. I hope your week’s going well…

      As a toxicologist I’m really trying to raise awareness about this growing epidemic of water pollution. Approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming according to the EPA. The amount of lakes and water ways that are too polluted for human consumption on the other hand, is astronomically higher and continues to rise in all areas of high population density. The trade off in environmental quality is not eliminated by central utilities. In fact, sewage treatment plants don’t fix the chemical pollution and those compounds still end up in the lakes and waterways.

      There are many, many people currently moving to the Adirondacks. There’s no shortage of people there that I can see. Where I have my camp it’s unbelievable how many people have moved there over the last year. My water is wrecked, can’t drink it, so I’m forced to use reverse osmosis filtration systems. It really saddens me that the sacred purity of these waters is wrecked. This is only from a fairly small town. Some people are encouraging far larger developments in the Adirondacks. This would be the knockout punch for the nearby waters.

      With kind personal regards,

      • Lee Nellis says:

        Hope your week is going well, too. Central utilities don’t treat everything. Nothing anyone can afford does. The key is not to put that stuff into the liquid waste stream in the first and that means not using that stuff in the first place. There should be a big public education campaign about that! But central utilities are needed to support many other good things, like limiting habitat loss and reducing VMT. It is also easier to retrofit them to treat more pollutants than it is to deal with the hundreds of septic tanks surrounding the lakes, which the APA evidently believes is still ok. What the science community needs to contribute (and soon) is a conclusive statement that on-site systems that are built to state standards still pollute and are not suitable for sensitive environments. This is not the only place that is playing out.

        As for growth: I appreciate that you are seeing more people. But there is no clear case that the towns of the Adirondacks are growing overall. We will see what the new Census looks like. There is a clear case that the schools are shrinking and plenty of evidence that the age structure is greyer and greyer. And conservationists better be worried about that. There is nothing that will undercut the environmental protections we have more effectively than communities having to close schools, horrible EMS response times, etc. Those things are pretty much inevitable in some of the remote areas, but if public policy could (and this is difficult) help the most viable places attract a younger population that would be a great counterbalance. Oh, and if you don’t believe me, check out the assault on Act 250 over on the other side of Lake Champlain that is happening right now.

        • Henry Grant says:

          Thanks Lee. It’s been a relaxing week so far, fingers crossed. We know how that usually goes with the busy work weeks…

          Glad to hear someone else cares about water pollution. I’ve been telling people about this for decades, but they’ve been very stubborn when it comes to changing their habits. At the end of the day, people won’t replace their habits. The US will never ban the use of the biggest detergent, soap and hygiene brands on earth. The research is out there on the environmental impact of OSWT systems. There is currently no feasible way around it. And the technology to retrofit is not out there to deal with the most insidious pollutants that I know of. We all know that people do not like to be told what to do and change their habits, and neither do corporations. And yes, this is happening everywhere. We can’t count on a paradigm shift in our society. We have to protect the places that have so far been protected since these compounds have come into use.

          No matter how well economically people are doing in the Adirondacks, people who are against conservation are always going to fight it. Oftentimes I’ve also found biases and conflicts of interest among some of the more so called “professionals”, who are completely at odds against my colleagues and much of the scientific community.

          You’re right, the more we can prevent additional development and maintain the already existing towns, centralizing people, the better in the long run both economically and environmentally. But the Adirondack protections were formed by people who didn’t live there. You don’t have to live there to be involved in preserving the forest preserve. It has been formed and funded by people like me, maybe going there to visit every now and then, but for the most part, outsiders. My son in law, aka JB, has been living within the Adirondacks for many years now, and he’s more involved on the ground there than me. He’s never seen a year like this year, ever. The number of people being attracted to the region is very high right now, so maybe we will even need to discourage people from coming. The people in some of the New York State cities wouldn’t be happy if there was massive population growth in the Adirondacks or Catskills, where their water comes from. There’s a reason why the tap water in Utica and New York City is some of the most pure tap water in the country according to our data.

          As someone who is involved with public health I can tell you that smart policies are driven by data, which does not happen overnight and will not make some people happy. The idea that you can’t have conservation without economic activity is very American, but it is simply not backed up by the data. There are extremely pure wilderness refuges in other countries, about as remote as the Adirondacks, where this faustian bargain is simply not the case. Their effective conservation outcomes are unparalleled. But there is very good data that higher population zones have been directly correlated with increased water pollution and negative environmental impact. We know exactly how this happens.

          I’m probably just holding a candle up to the sunshine right now but once the cat’s out of the bag, you can’t put it back in.

          I wish you the best and give you my warm regards,


          • Jeep says:

            Great point Henry! Maybe we should be discouraging people from Visiting! Maybe you could lead by example and not visit here but choose an alternative destination

          • Lee Nellis says:

            I don’t know Henry. I am old enough to remember getting phosphates out of laundry soap. I think the same could be done if there was enough focus on specific pollutants. Perhaps I have missed it, but is there actually an accessible source of information on what’s getting into Adirondack lakes from on-site systems? I don’t think the public has the information they need to evaluate what they’re using. I think they assume – and this misperception needs to be addressed by the APA or somebody – that their septic tanks are effective. I know there’s lots of science, but journal papers don’t reach the public.

            In the meantime, we do the best we can.

            • Henry Grant says:

              Hey Lee. Thanks for the feedback.

              I’m not aware of any comprehensive data on septic related pollution in Adirondack lakes, but there have been problems, which most Adirondack-related zines have covered, related to bacteria from leaking sewer lines ending up in Lake George. But I don’t think they really collected any data on the effectiveness of functioning septic systems in preventing water contaminants, biological or chemical. I think, if I recall correctly, East Caroga Lake may have had some problems with nitrates from septic tanks, but nothing else comes to mind. I’m sure there are some people who are really locally knowledgeable about this. But I can tell you that I have seen plenty of literature in toxicology-related journals addressing the inadequacies of septic systems (aka OWTS), even newer intact ones. Here is a brief, non-technical summary of some of the relevant literature that I have earmarked over the years, which I hope will be useful to you:

              Our modern wastewater treatment technologies are little changed from the 1960s, and they are really only equipped to handle BOD (biological oxygen demand), fecal pathogens and some very basic other challenges. In the past fifty or so years, though, thousands of new compounds have come into widespread and increasing use by consumers, in the form of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and other household products. Unfortunately, these facts, and their inevitable consequence for xenobiotic contamination of the environment, remain fairly uncontemplated by the general public, instead being mainly confined to the purview of a handful of experts. We can see that governments in the United States are well aware of this issue if we look at some of their reports.

              The vast majority of research, especially pertaining to OSWTS, however, is still focused on contamination in groundwater from fecal pathogens or nitrogen and phosphorus contamination, rather than PPCPs and related organic compounds. That research does indicate that those contaminants, which are heavily monitored, are finding their way into ground and surface water as a constituent of effluent from functioning OSWTS (Hantzsche and Finnemore [1992], Robertson et al [1991], Tinker [1991], Verhougstraete [2015], Walker et al [1973]). The organic compounds in PPCPs, which are present in virtually all WWTPs and OSWTS, are certainly also making their way into ground and surface water via discharge of treated effluent, especially since they are much harder to remove from wastewater due to their highly polar nature (water-solubility). This property is also what makes these compounds particularly hard to detect in the environment (Ternes et al [2004]) despite the fact that they have a very high potential for human and environmental toxic impact. That being said, there is still plenty of research confirming their presence in treated effluent and their subsequent occurrence in ground and surface water worldwide (Cormio [2008], Daughton and Ternes [1999], Ebele et al [2017], Halling-Sørensen et al [1998], Herberer [2002], Kolpin et al [2002], Kolpin et al [2004], Loraine and Pettigrove [2006], Luckenbach and Epel [2005], Montes-Grajales et al [2017], Nowak and Lisowska [2020], Del Rosario et al [2014], Stuer-Lauridsen [2000], etc). Further complicating things is the fact that some of the organic compounds that have been found in treated wastewater effluent are also used in house and boat paints, cleaning products, sunscreens, etc, which could provide additional sources of ground and surface water contamination. An example would be high concentrations of methylisothiazolinone (MIT), which is found in sunscreens, in beach sand. On the other hand, MIT and related compounds are also found ubiquitously in rinse-off products that ultimately make their way into wastewater effluent. The reason that these compounds are so widely used is due to their desirable antimicrobial activities, and they have been argued to be safer alternatives to other biocides due to their perceived low toxicity and low environmental stability. However, emerging research is calling this into question by demonstrating adverse health effects in mammals and aquatic life (neurotoxicity, cytotoxicity) and high prevalence in the environment (Silva et al [2020], Nowak and Lisowska [2020]).

              More research needs to be done, especially here in the United States, where we are 20 years behind Europe in this area, and even more so in the Adirondacks. But we already have plenty of data and good models, which indicate that the assumption that OSWTS are preventing these compounds from reaching ground and surface water is simply false. Centralized WWTPs are better, but still do not remove enough of these organic contaminants to render most effluent environmentally safe. If anything, though, we can be thankful for the fact the WWTPs reduce the number point sources of contamination and tend to be built intentionally distant from nearby drinking water sources, which is a still great improvement over OSWTS. Many places in the Adirondacks and Catskills are particularly poorly suited to the use of OSWTS due to suboptimal soils. In some such places, certain solutes can quickly travel through soils, hundreds of feet beyond NYSDOH and APA setback requirements from wells and surface water, without diminishing significantly in concentration (Robertson et al [1991], Weiskel and Howes [1992], etc). Thus, the argument for limiting the density of houses in unsewered Adirondack areas is backed by an abundance of literature, with the EPA even suggesting that density greater than 40 OSWTS per square mile has the potential to adversely impact groundwater (Carroll and Goonetilleke [2005], Whitehead and Geary [2003], Yates [1985], etc). Obviously, even basic safety criteria are probably not being met in most places in upstate NY. We need to take a hard look at current practices and not assume that wastewater technologies give us the green-light to settle rural areas in greater and greater numbers without environmental and health consequences.

              Lee and DPC, I commend you for your knowledge and ethics. You’re a breath of fresh air. The wife’s getting a little bit of cabin fever so I needed a distraction. It’s been a pleasure.

              All the best and my warmest wishes,

              Carroll, S., & Goonetilleke, A. (2005). Assessment of high density of onsite wastewater treatment systems on a shallow groundwater coastal aquifer using PCA. Environmetrics: The Official Journal of the International Environmetrics Society, 16(3), 257-274.
              Cormio, P. G., & Schuphan, I. (2008). Metabolism of nonylphenol by human P450-recombinant yeast and assessment of the xeno-hormone potency of different isomers and their chlorinated derivatives (No. RWTH-CONV-208056). Fachgruppe Biologie.
              Daughton, C. G., & Ternes, T. A. (1999). Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment: agents of subtle change?. Environmental health perspectives, 107(suppl 6), 907-938.
              Del Rosario, K. L., Mitra, S., Humphrey Jr, C. P., & O’Driscoll, M. A. (2014). Detection of pharmaceuticals and other personal care products in groundwater beneath and adjacent to onsite wastewater treatment systems in a coastal plain shallow aquifer. Science of the total environment, 487, 216-223.
              Ebele, A. J., Abdallah, M. A. E., & Harrad, S. (2017). Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the freshwater aquatic environment. Emerging Contaminants, 3(1), 1-16.
              Halling-Sørensen, B. N. N. S., Nielsen, S. N., Lanzky, P. F., Ingerslev, F., Lützhøft, H. H., & Jørgensen, S. E. (1998). Occurrence, fate and effects of pharmaceutical substances in the environment-A review. Chemosphere, 36(2), 357-393.
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              • Lee Nellis says:

                Awesome! I knew that this literature must exist and now I have a good list. Thanks.

                The question is why the agency responsible for protecting these mountains is still willing to approve traditional ring-around-the-lake development.

  21. Hi all, glad to see this thread is still kicking. A couple of things:
    1) This story just popped into my news feed:
    Interesting to note Idaho is a state seeing a large inward migration (which came up here in the discussion.) Was struck by this quote: “The Boise land rush, I call it,” said Jenkins, a consultant aerospace engineer who relocated to Idaho In November. “I’ve never seen so much construction. Not just houses. Schools. Roads. Hospitals. Churches. It is exciting.” Was wondering how people in the Adirondacks would react to a similar “boom” (supposing it were to happen).

    2) I received an update over the weekend from Jim McKenna, the head of ROOST, about the survey. He said 6,773 people took the survey with 5,593 of those people completing it. Camion 310 is now analyzing the results and will send an update via ROOST and Warren EDC when they are ready.

    • Boreas says:


      Thanks for the update.

    • Zephyr says:

      It’s going to take years to get actual stats on how many people moved out of the state this year, and where they actually went. This article is based on reports of where moving trucks are going. I know some people who moved from California to upstate New York this year. More anecdotal evidence that doesn’t mean much. Just outside of the Adirondacks Saratoga County has been one of the fastest growing counties in NY for many years. The reasons include good jobs, good schools, plenty of transportation, reasonable housing, etc. The county is also a short drive away from the Adirondacks!

    • Bill Ott says:

      Ms Hart, Just in case you come back this way, I have run some population numbers for the park and its environs. I tabulated the populations of all the towns within the park and then tabulated all the towns that ranged approximately within 15 miles of the park boundary. I also separated out the populations of the towns that straddled the park boundary.

      Adk Park: size: 9,378 sq mi Population: 129,744
      Outer Ring: size: 5,840 sq mi Population: 377,379

      Wikipedia lists the park population as 132,000. My numbers come from the 2010 census figures for the 159 towns within and around the park. You are welcome to my Excel workbook if you want it. One oddball item I found was the town of Greenfield having just a tiny triangle of land in the park. Greenfield’s population within the blue line dropped from 4 in 2000 to zero in 2010.

      Keep up the good work. Your efforts are not wasted.

      Bill Ott
      Lakewood, OH

      • Zephyr says:

        Thanks for the hard work Bill! Just for reference, Yonkers has a population of about 201,000, Syracuse 141,000, and Albany 95,000 (in 2021).

        • Bill Ott says:

          Thanks for the reply Zephyr. By the way have you ever been to or heard about the Fontana reservoir in North Carolina?

  22. Steve B. says:

    You cannot really compare Boise to the Adirondacks. It’s typically warmer in winter by a good bit.

    As I commented earlier, the cold winters is what limits migration to the Daks.

    • DPC says:

      Steve B.: I agree. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Both regions have wonderful scenic beauty, but the Adirondacks are also a park. A place for functional ecosystems on a landscape scale.

      Earlier, Zephyr and Henry were talking about water quality, and I was thinking about the communities of Newbridge and Clarksboro on the Grasse River, settlements that are now long gone. This is the same area where the Horizon Corporation proposed a large residential development in the 1970s. The proposal raised alarm precisely because it was to be in a park, and steps were taken to prevent it.

      Maybe Horizon went to Idaho. If people want growth, let them go there.

      Lee has raised thoughtful points in favor of maintaining a stable permanent population concentrated in existing ADK villages, while controlling exurban land development elsewhere. If some of the smaller hamlets, now in full decline, were to go the way of Clarksboro and Newbridge, would it not be better for other species and the human one? The area once occupied by Clarksboro and Newbridge is full of natural wonders. And ecologically, with its proximity to the Five Ponds Wilderness, the area is now far better off for the broader good of all.

      Perhaps we could counterbalance the stabilization of viable communities with the demise of more remote ones. Alternatively, we could direct our energy to stabilize rural communities outside the Blue Line, and let the park be more of a park? I need to think about that.

      I don’t need to think about Idaho as a model for the North Country.

      I am grateful to all for this healthy exchange of ideas and information. Thank you!

      • Jeep says:

        Right! A broader good for all who dont actually live here and are trying to scratch out a living in an economically depressed region!

        • DPC says:

          Jeep: By “broader good”, I mean to include the people who have chosen to live inside the park as well as those who visit (and other species with whom we share the planet). We have to keep in mind the ADKs are a park, which makes the region different than the economically depressed areas just outside the Blue Line. A park supports visitors and functional ecosytems. I get your comment if you were writing about the town where I live. But where I live is not part of the park. Maybe I wasn’t clear.

      • Lee Nellis says:

        Having lived and worked there for years, I can tell you that Idaho is definitely not a model for the Adirondacks (or anywhere else) though there are spots that have a similar landscape (NOT Boise). There could be a thoughtful discussion and public process about the future of the Adirondack Park that is not possible in Idaho, where the in-migration of folks with radical right wing agendas has seriously damaged the civic realm.

  23. Jeep says:

    Now I see where Coumo has vetoed the broadband study bill, which I’m sure would have been beneficial to the region looking ahead! Is there anything that man touches that doesn’t turn to s**t?

  24. Bill Ott says:

    I have always wanted to be the one to make comment #100, but I thought I should actually have a comment, so I read through all of the above. Lee Nellis impressed me most, right at the start.

    I may be mistaken, but I believe the main impetus for the creation of Park was to have a source of clean drinking water for NYC. Now, even if that is wrong, I think the main priority for saving the park as it is, is for the park itself. My priorities for the park would be for the park even though it cannot speak for itself. The next priority would be the residents, some of whom speak for the park and some of whom speak for business. Businesses should be the lowest priority, as they only serve themselves. This stuff is so obvious, I wonder why I put it to print.

    Nonetheless, I think this survey belonged to the people within the park. Until she has lived here, I don’t think she should have a “say.”

    • Bill Ott says:

      My whole intention of making this comment was to insert this line from a Columbo episode which seems to fit the APA perfectly – “You are like the woman who throws her umbrella away while it is raining because she is not wet.”

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