Saturday, April 10, 2021

Thoughts On Adirondack Population Recruitment: Five trends to consider

School enrollment map from Northern Forest Center reportRecruitment of new people to live in Adirondack communities is all the buzz. It’s a central focus of the Common Ground Alliance, which contracted for a plan of action for communities with ambitions to recruit more people to move here.

While Adirondack communities recruit young professionals after ages 35 and 45 years old in low numbers and retirees in higher numbers, a premium has been placed on recruiting young adults with young children or young adults who may have children once they move here.

The push for recruitment of new residents is not just an Adirondack thing; it is now in vogue all across Rural America. Many rural areas see recruitment opportunities after a full year of the COVID19 pandemic.

When thinking about and planning for population recruitment in the Adirondacks, local leaders and planners should be aware of five dominant trends that shape population dynamics in the Adirondacks and Rural America.


Urban-suburban growth

The first trend is that population growth in the U.S. over the last several decades is largely an urban-suburban phenomenon and is not a major factor in Rural America. From 1970 to 2010, the United States saw its population grow from 201.1 million to 305.6 million. (We do not yet have 2020 Census numbers.)

However, that same time frame saw the population in the 1,941 counties of Rural America (there are roughly 3,100 counties in the entire USA) rise from 35.9 million people to 45.4 million. That means that as urban and metropolitan areas jumped by 50% and added over 95 million people by births or immigration from abroad, Rural America saw an increase of 25%, adding just 9.5 million people.

Within Rural America, there are also differences. More than half of the population growth in Rural America was in roughly one-third of high population rural counties that are closer geographically to metropolitan areas, while the rest was spread across the low population rural landscape that covers more than 60% of the continental U.S. land area – a thinly populated landscape similar to many Adirondack communities.

What this means for Adirondack leaders and planners is that population growth has been largely limited to bigger rural counties and counties near metropolitan areas. It also means that there are lots of places in Rural America thinking about ways to try and attract a fairly small pool of potential new residents who may want to move to the most rural parts of the country.

Decline in birth rate

The second trend concerns children, specifically the choice of many Americans not to have lots of children. When we look at children ages 0 to 14 years old, Metropolitan America saw a growth of 3 million children in its 2010 population compared with its number in 1970, whereas Rural America saw a drop of 1.6 million children in these same years. In 2010, there were 60.6 million children 0 to 14 years old in Metropolitan America, up from 57.6 million in 1970. By contrast, Rural America saw a drop in children ages 0 to 14 years old; in 1970 there were 10.2 million, and in 2010 there were 8.6 million.

When we look just at the 92 Adirondack Park towns, both the 61 towns entirely within the Blue Line and the 31 towns split by the Blue Line, we see that collectively these towns had a 1970 population of over 186,000, which grew to over 230,000 by 2010. That’s impressive growth. It’s not the 50% growth the U.S. as a whole saw, but it’s stellar.

The interesting thing is that while the total population of the 92 Adirondack towns wholly or partly within the Adirondack Park grew by over 43,000 people from 1970 to 2010, the number of children 0 to 14 years old dropped from 57,696 to 37,807 in those years.

Now, I can already hear people saying that the drop in the total number of young children in Adirondack Park towns or Rural America is because of an attendant drop in the number of adults of child-bearing age, say people 25 years old to 44 years old. Here, though, the plot thickens, multiplying the challenges facing those in the population recruitment business. The reality is that there were many more adults age 25 to 44 years old in 2010 than there were in 1970 in both Rural America and Adirondack Park towns.

As pointed out above, the number of children ages 0 to 14 years old in 2010 was nearly 20,000 fewer than in 1970 in the 92 Adirondack Park towns. Yet, this same time frame saw the number of adults in Adirondack towns age 25 to 44 years old increase from 41,000 to over 53,000 (not including prison inmates). Yes, we had 12,000 more adults 25 to 44 years old in 2010, but these adults somehow spawned 20,000 fewer children 0 to 14 years old. Now, certainly, there were Adirondack parents of 0 to 14 year olds in 2010 that were younger than 25 and older than 44, but nevertheless, the fact that the number of children went down substantially while the number of adults went up is no mere weird factoid, but is a major trend that population recruiters should understand.

This trend was the same for the 61 towns wholly within the Adirondack Park. In 1970 there were 26,999 children 0 to 14 years old and 18,807 adults 25 to 44 years old. In 2010 there were 15,416 children 0 to 14 years old and 21,758 adults 25 to 44 years old. The number of children dropped even as the number of adults rose.

The 25 to 44 years old age pool of adults is not just crucial for being of prime-age to reproduce, but these are folks organizing their careers, opening businesses, putting down roots, and helping to build communities. That Adirondack Park towns have seen this pool grow over the decades is important economically as well as socially.

The inescapable point is that our adult pool is having fewer children. We’re a population of 1- and 2-child families. Over the years, that depresses school populations. As we’ve seen from the data above, the trend of small families is likely to continue, if not intensify with even smaller families. This means that even as we are successful in attracting a sizable number of young adults to move to the Adirondacks (and for a rural area the 92 Adirondack Park towns have done fairly well with recruitment), the reality is that this will not end the slow, incremental decline in school district enrollments throughout the Adirondacks (as well as throughout Upstate New York). School district enrollment is not a good indicator for rural community vitality, though it’s cited all the time.

The adult population of today, not just in the Adirondacks, but across New York and many parts of Rural America, are simply not birthing the number of children that previous generations birthed. The baby-boomer families of the 1940s, 50s and 60s were large, but Generation Xers and Millennials who followed chose to have fewer children. The size of American households has been shrinking for decades. The trend of small families is a tough trend to change, but it’s a key factor shaping the Adirondack population dynamic. More importantly, we should ask if that’s a trend that we want to change? Click here to see maps of NYS and the U.S. that show these long-term trends.

NYS numbers decline

Here’s the third trend, and this one too is a tough nut to crack. The 92 Adirondack Park towns are located geographically in New York State. There’s nothing that we can do about that. From 1970 to 2010, New York State gained about 1.1 million people, rising from 18.2 million to 19.3 million. In 1970, New York had 4.4 million residents 25 to 44 years old and in 2010 it had 5.2 million people in that age range. As the number of young adults grew, the population of children 0 to 14 years old went the other way and dropped from 4.9 million to 3.5 million. Again, the reality is that small families is not just an Adirondack Park thing; it’s a New York State thing too. The other reality about New York is that population gain is a Downstate thing and population loss, with some minimal exceptions, is an Upstate thing.

From 2000 to 2010 this trend intensified. From 2000 to 2010 the number of 0 to 14 year olds in New York State dropped by over 388,000, even as the total number increased in the U.S. For Adirondack population recruiters, the most fertile field for bringing in new residents is plucking them from other New York communities. These communities, however, are places with fewer and fewer children.

Years of population decline

The fourth trend is that what the baby-boomers giveth, the baby-boomers also taketh away. In the U.S. in the three decades after World War II, from the mid-1940s through the mid-1970s, America saw its greatest population gains. A high birth rate for 30 years was the rule of the land, followed by decades of relatively high immigration from abroad. Rural America experienced growth like the rest of the country, but now Rural America is experiencing a population contraction as baby boomers are aging and dying. This population phenomenon of expansion and contraction is consistent across Rural America.

While we’ve seen major overall population gains from 1970 to 2010 in the U.S., and modest gains in Rural America, our population in Rural America has changed considerably. Beyond the sharp drop in children 0 to 14 years old due to small families, we’ve seen major changes wrought by the significant expansion and contraction of the number of 25 to 44 year olds across Rural America. There’s a clear pattern of growth 1970 to 1990, as the baby-boomers came of age, followed by a decline 1990 to 2010 in the number of 25 to 44 year olds, even as the overall population increased. The baby-boomers who chose to build their lives in Rural America often also chose to have smaller families than the households in which they were raised.

Across Rural America there were 7.6 million residents 25 to 44 years old in 1970, which grew to 11.7 million in 1990, and dropped to 10.6 million in 2010. At the same time the overall population grew in Rural America from 35.9 million people in 1970, to 40.6 million in 1990, to 45.4 million in 2010. As baby boomers aged, so did Rural America. There’s no end in sight for this trend.

The most thinly populated 1,300 counties in Rural America had a 1970 population of 25 to 44 year olds of 806,000 which expanded to 1.26 million in 1990 and then dropped to 988,000 in 2010. At the same time the overall population in these counties grew by over 600,000. The really rural parts of Rural America akin to many Adirondack communities aged along with their baby boomers too.

In New York State, the number of people 25 to 44 years old rose from 4.4 million in 1970 to 5.8 million in 1990 and then dropped to 5.2 million in 2010. The total NYS population grew by 1.1 million from 1970 to 2010. In the 92 Adirondack Park towns, both those wholly inside and those split by the Blue Line, the number of people 25 to 44 years old rose from just over 41,000 in 1970 to nearly 70,000 in 1990 before dropping down to 53,000 in 2010. The total Adirondack Park Towns’ population grew by over 43,000. The Adirondack population is also riding the baby-boom wave.

This population expansion and contraction phenomenon is still working its way through the American and New York State populations. Population recruiters should be aware that in total numbers there were over 3 million fewer 25 to 44 year olds in 2010 than there were in 2000 in the U.S., which shrinks the vital pool recruiters seek to lure to the Adirondacks. In New York, this vital pool shrank by over 500,000 from 2000 to 2010. A grim reality is that population predictions call for this trend to continue into the 2020s and beyond towards mid-century. The dynamic population that Adirondack population recruiters seek to bring here is shrinking. Click here to see maps of this decline 2000 to 2010.

Immigration trends

The fifth trend is that immigrants from abroad do not choose to relocate to Rural America in large numbers. That said, the parts of Rural America that are seeing population growth are mainly due to immigration from abroad. Rural areas that successfully attract new residents who are non-native-born Americans are the rural places that are growing. There are lots of reports and studies about how non-native-born Americans who move to rural areas transform and revitalize their new communities.

There are serious efforts underway, such as the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, to address the factors that make Rural American communities like the Adirondack Park unattractive to non-native-born Americans and people of color in general. More needs to be done on this issue, but the reality is that immigrants from abroad play a considerable role in driving population growth in metropolitan areas of the U.S. And these people are choosing in great numbers to live in metropolitan areas, forgoing the option of life in Rural America. This is another trend that will be tough to change. For comparison, the chief demographer at the New York City Department of Planning says over 55% of the City’s current population consists of immigrants from abroad and their children.

The same population realities facing Rural America are facing Adirondack communities. Our population dynamic in the Adirondacks, like much of Rural America, is driven by enduring national trends of baby boomer expansion and contraction and there’s nothing we can do to stop baby boomers from aging and dying. We also can’t force people who choose to live in the Adirondacks, or who choose to move here, to have bigger families. And, so far, the Adirondacks and Rural America have not figured out how to convince large numbers of immigrants from abroad generally, and people of color specifically, to relocate to their small communities in high numbers.

From 2000 to 2010, the 92 Adirondack Park towns, both those fully within the Park and those split by the Blue Line, grew by just over 1%. The 61 towns that are fully within the Blue Line saw a population loss of just over -1%. There were plenty of places in Rural America with even greater population losses. These overall trends will likely continue where the bigger communities in and around the Adirondacks grow slightly, and the smaller, more remote communities in the Park’s interior shrink slightly. These realities are generally driven not by local or regional decisions, but by the powerful national trends elucidated above, though singular events like mine or mill closings can accelerate these trends in individual communities.

Population recruiters may also want to focus their efforts on the population over 45 years old and try and get second career people and early retirees to relocate to the Adirondacks. These folks generally have financial resources, can buy or start businesses. They’re not going to help with declining school enrollment numbers, but they can help to provide important social and economic capital in the Adirondack region.

The good news for Adirondack leaders and planners in the population recruitment business is that the numbers we’re talking about are small. Tiny, really. The 61 towns in the Adirondack Park’s interior saw a loss of 1,200 people from 2000 to 2010. The math to reverse this trend is to figure out how to attract 120 people a year, or 60 couples, to any of these 61 towns, from Caroga to Franklin, from Clifton to Warrensburg, from Essex to Morehouse. National trends point towards sustained minor population losses in much of Rural America in the decades ahead, so to try and reverse these trends will take purposeful local actions to make Adirondack communities into places that are well stocked with appealing cultural and social amenities, are places with an adequate supply of affordable housing, have good access to health care, broadband, quality schools, viable employment, and are safe and welcoming to all people. There are lots places in Rural America using variations of this same formula in their recruitment efforts, but we have a landscape of unparalleled beauty with world class outdoor recreational opportunities.

School district enrollment changes from 2008-2018 Info from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Used in the Northern Forest Center report on attracting new residents to the Adirondacks

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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.

78 Responses

  1. Vanessa says:

    Dang, so much to say on this! There’s a lot of data here, and perhaps will be the usual range of comments. Let me try to contribute some novel feedback.

    – Peter is a fantastic writer, but I admit it isn’t helping to use the word “spawn” when referring to us millennials having kids. :p Maybe pick a synonym next time.

    – A lot of agency is assigned here in terms of younger people “choosing” to have fewer kids. There are already pages and pages written on the following, but to summarize: millennials are on average much much poorer than the boomer generation and most of us who don’t have kids decline to do so because we straight-up can’t afford them. A smaller subset try but are increasingly infertile due to age and environmental toxins effecting human fertility in general, and a very small subset are too worried about climate change to reproduce. Only a small portion are skipping it entirely due to preference. If we don’t understand this, no problems will be solved.

    – As stated elsewhere, COVID is going to mess up all of the dynamics noted here, and it will take several years to recalibrate. I am not sure if the Adirondacks will get their target residents as a result or just more 55+ year olds with second houses. I agree strongly with the idea that younger, full-time residents are better, but of course I’m biased. 🙂

    – I’m glad this article addresses immigration in a robust way. This is an issue effecting all America, and many of the country’s most acrimonious political battles are fundamentally about people’s comfort with this phenomenon (or not). We’ve discussed ad infinitum some verrrrry basic strategies for small Adirondack towns to make progress here, but at the end of the day, you don’t even have to take my word for it. It will pan out in people “voting with their feet” or not.

    I guess I’d close by saying that more than anything, I think everyone (opinionated millennials like myself included) needs to keep reasonable expectations here. We all have goals we’re working towards. Goals are good, and we should be nice to ourselves as we work to meet them. 🙂

    • Zephyr says:

      By the way, a sort of counterintuitive economic reality is being seen in many places that have attracted lots of retirees (like where I live). The influx of boomers and older with plenty of retirement money to spend means the creation of lots of jobs in the service industries needed and wanted by the older crowd. Contrary to popular wisdom some people in service industries make good incomes. I’m personally not convinced that a concerted effort to attract one demographic or another is the best way to go, but instead think general improvements to communities will attract someone that will keep the economy growing. Anyone who has been around more than a few decades knows that many towns in the Adirondacks are in much better shape economically than they were even with less children in the schools.

      • Vanessa says:

        This is fair – and I agree, lots of service industry jobs pay quite well. I think there’s a bias to think that we’re always talking low wage cleaning or waitressing jobs when referring to the service industry. Whereas there is a variety of work that comes with both tourism and lots of boomers.

        But I still maintain that younger people also bring good jobs too, even though we need less healthcare for example. We like our coffee houses and definitely restaurants and recreational centers like gyms, bars, movie theaters etc.

        Also per your other comment- gentrification is a real issue, but it’s happening in some communities now without a significant influx of young people. You pointed out that most houses cost significantly less than even mediocre houses in the city, and that’s definitely true (as a city dweller in Boston can *definitely confirm). But it’s still close-to-retirees, not city dwellers, that are using their cash to buy those houses.

  2. Peter says:

    One big problem in NYS is the citizens have lost control of their government. The government can do whatever it wants with no checks and balances. Just look at what our governor gets away with. We have a one party system. You wonder why skilled professionals are leaving the state along with the younger generation?
    I live in the Adirondacks and have to travel out of the park to get essentials including healthcare. The younger generation is not going to put up with this. The Adirondacks have become the playground of downstate.

  3. Zephyr says:

    I’ve written it before, but the key to attracting younger people is the availability of jobs. In the past the Adirondacks had good numbers of extractive jobs. Lumbering and mining are not coming back. One bright spot might be the current wave of working from home by tech workers, but the lack of Internet connectivity is a huge problem. Obviously, school consolidation should be on the table too, but long bus trips to school are not popular either. Frankly, I think most areas will find that they continue to attract retirees, particularly younger ones, and will find it hard to attract younger families except for the more urban places like Lake Placid.

    • Lee Nellis says:

      There is a problem with this conclusion about jobs. Its not true. Researchers studying the growth of gateway communities out West have known since the ’80s that in the current “services” economy, jobs follow people. Just graph the growth of the population of Bozeman, MT since 1970 versus the growth in jobs. As Bozeman has grown, the rate of growth in jobs has somewhat caught up, but the reality is that people move to high-amenity communities and then figure out what to do. I have done that myself and I will bet that other readers have, too. While “lone eagle” workers have always been part of the population growth in high-amenity communities, they are not predominant. The pandemic may change that conclusion. It will take a few years to see. The impediments to young people moving need no further study: They are the lack of affordable housing (and in many smaller places, any housing stock at all) and lack of child care. The recent report on attracting families identifies these issues without saying much about how they can be mitigated. We do know how to mitigate them, but fail to do so (often fail even to discuss the solutions) because of the persistent belief that the invisible hand of the market will take care of it. Decades of experience show that: a) it won’t, and b) those who adhere to this belief otten actively resist actual solutions. I want to end by thanking Peter for all the work he puts into getting information out to people.

      • Rob says:

        Well put Lee!! Totally agree.

      • JB says:

        Good point, Lee. But the Adirondack Park is different than other places. I know of a few businesses that have closed in recent years, not for a lack of a labor pool, but because of the rapid appreciation of property values. The value of land within the most developed areas of the Park has easily increased at twice the rate of other non-urban places in the State due to the high desirability of living here.

        Building housing where none has ever existed is an undertaking that can only be funded by rich, well-credited patrons. The cost of land aside, building a new house now is all but impossible for less than $100/sq. ft. in other non-urban places in the State, will be triple that in larger cities, and will be somewhere in between the two within the Adirondack Park, mostly due to the enormous costs associated with bringing in infrastructure over larger distances where none exists, on a per sub-lot basis–an expense that will be incurred by the developer and passed on to the homeowner or renter. As population and desirability further increase, land values, taxes, and labor prices will follow, bringing the cost of living within the Park into closer alignment to that of larger cities until we hit the bottleneck created by those pesky environmental laws, at which point costs will become impressively high. Then we will experience even more of the gentrification and runaway government bloat that has been previously discussed, and the dream of “affordable housing” for all in the Park vanishes. I think that the Park has actually been a victim of its own popularity, not the opposite as some are arguing.

        But all of that is ignoring the important question of why we would even develop subdivisions in many of these Park areas in the first place knowing all of the above. Maybe it is an imperative of larger local governments to increase funding at the local homeowner’s expensive, or an imperative of the State to similarly increase funding. But I think that the arguments that we are starting to see now are little bit different: “We can increase population AND increase affordability AND increase social equability AND protect wilderness character”. Taken alone and unpredicated, any of those promises sound good. But when such statements are echoed in conjunction by a large enough crowd, those of us who have been around for a little while become unsettled. It is impossible idealism, and some of the greatest catastrophes in human history have been caused by impossible idealism.

        • Lee Nellis says:

          First, factually, I did not say that new subdivisions in exurban areas are necessary to accommodate new families. There is plenty of infill space in the existing communities. Infill building is harder in many ways, so your point about costs stands, but there is no need to change the character of the rural portions of the park to house the few hundred families it would take to shore up community fabric. As Peter’s essay says, that the numbers are small should give us some hope.

          The Adirondacks are a little different in important ways. None of which are differences in the impacts of rising land values, building costs, or any of the other practical realities that accompany the gentrification of high amenity communities. The headlines here are matched by those in every other gateway community.

          One of the differences that does exist is the level of exceptionalism reflected here. Peter Bauer’s report on how Adirondack communities participate in all the trends that affect other rural communities should have helped alleviate that exceptionalism, but maybe not.

          Another difference, a potentially positive one, is that the Adirondacks have in place a planning mechanism that should (but currently does not) facilitate the visionary thinking needed to address the issues. The APA could be taking leadership in promoting the expansion of the housing stock , child care, etc., etc. That would be difficult and probably unpopular with some of the same people who think the population needs to grow, but it is possible and the APA’s regional scope would make what ought to be done easier.

          I don’t think there is anything dreadfully idealistic about what could be done here. Perhaps there is a risk, but idealism induced catastrophes are rare compared to the certain loss of landscape integrity and community character that we are watching all around us.

          • JB says:

            Lee, I think we are probably suffering from miscommunication. By “subdivisions”, I simply meant subdividing lots to build new houses, as per your valid point about lack of vacant housing–so basically “infill building”.

            The rising land values within the Park that have been driving businesses out for decades ARE uniquely exacerbated within the Adirondack Park. I am a somewhat younger Park resident who has grown up in various communities elsewhere in rural New York state that have seen massive suburban sprawl and some gentrification in the past 20 years, but have not seen the same type of land appreciation that the Park has. Maybe there is a specific region that you have in mind that I am unfamiliar with, but I will tell you that even where I live and in the surrounding areas, far outside of the Essex County hotspot, the kinds of recent decline that you mention has really not occurred–populations have seen a slight bump, development is accelerating and land values have increased greatly in past decades compared to those of the places where I grew up.

            The combination of limited private land in-holdings within a public land recreational mecca and high demand for such lands (for exactly that reason) does not exist in the vast majority of other places, nor do the fail-safes to slow development, which are enforced by the APA. I think that this encompasses your use of the term “exceptionalism”. And, yes, I agree that Peter has been very helpful in bringing all of this into perspective with this article. The “attract younger people” bandwagon, driven by the same selection biases that are inherent in all of us, has reached a point such that articles like this one have become necessary.

            I think that you are basically saying “we should build some housing, but stop when we have reached satisfactory inventory”. The problem that I see is that not everyone is on the same page. What is “satisfactory”? Spend time and public resources bringing some Park populations back up a few percentage points to mid-90’s levels? Artificially subsidize things to that end in those communities whose populations have taken a slight dip (some have gone the opposite way), only until “our goals” are reached? Where is the money coming from? Is it fair to spend public funds from outside of the Park on creating expensive “amenities” in low-population Park communities in the hope that others will come, spending public money for a small minority instead of a more imperiled majority? Why not prioritize places outside of the Park where many people actually live, many more used to live, and infrastructure will be better utilized and cheaper to scale, places that are not environmentally sensitive by virtue of geology and ecology, places where environmental regulations have not created “exceptionalism” that is already pushing people out?

            I think that there needs to be a healthy dialectic from multiple sides, not just the “growth” side, lest we will not know when to stop. And then a small additional increase in gentrification, a small increase in use of community services, a small increase in environmental impact, will become a lot. In reality, we are not really talking about stopping a (non-existent) rapid decline here in the Park, we are talking about accelerating relative growth. I commended Peter’s article specifically because this perspective is for the most part excluded from this conversation. Peter is actually the first person with public influence who I have seen that has dared mention a serious counterargument to those who have been towing the unilateral “repopulation” (or “population growth”) line, folks who for some reason place an outsized and undeserved emphasis on the Park.

      • Zephyr says:

        The population of Bozeman is north of 46,000. Sure, some people move to the Adirondacks without a job, but I venture that most people who do that are retired. Who in their right mind is going to pick up and move their family to a very rural region without a job lined up? I’ve directly compared wages within the Adirondacks vs just outside in my own career when the few job openings have appeared, and for the exact same type of work you can make a lot more in Saratoga or Albany county and still be within driving range of the Dacks, and there are many times the opportunities.

        • Rob says:

          All good information and well thought ideals of what could be and what was. The bottom line is the all mighty $. Most people can’t afford to keep themselves afloat where they are now. The chances of moving to remote living with few services (even for the the crazy few) not likely to happen. Add the cost of building anything at this point, one would have to be wealthy or nuts or both. The late 70’s the same exact thing happend to building materials took over 7yrs to come back to earth. Things change fast so who knows what a year or 10 will bring. Pandemic … yeah.. Best laid plans gone.

        • Vanessa says:

          Yeah Saratoga is both growing and gentrifying a ton. The difference between when I went to school in the mid-aughts and now is stark. So many cookie cutter overpriced condos in Saratoga Springs! None of that was there even when I went to school. The development people wouldn’t build those crappy condos unless they were betting on the “exurbanization” of places like Albany & Saratoga.

          I think the ADKs should focus on a different appeal on purpose. I know few millennials who *want to live in a boxy under 1k feet square condo. Whereas I’d love to live in direct proximity to nature, without 100s of neighbors, and I am a minority but certainly not alone.

          • JB says:

            Yes, Vanessa, I think you are right. Most people want to live in an exclusive area not surrounded by other people. That will always be in high demand which will outstrip supply and, thus, be expensive. It would be great to provide a $1,000,000 Universal Basic Income to everyone, but sadly this cannot be done without destroying the world that we live in as we know it.

            At least the Adirondack Park attempts to deal with this problem in a different way. The idea behind the Park is to preserve such rural areas, similarly to many small-town nationwide zoning laws, but in a more effective way. Not everyone will be able to live there, but the benefits and opportunities of this preservation can be experienced by all, hopefully in perpetuity. The air that is breathed and the water that is drank is kept clean for millions of people who do not live in the Park. It is reasonably possible for anyone in the region to access prime wilderness if they are willing to work a little for it. With enough determination, the hardy few have the opportunity to live in such a place. The mere fact that such a place exists in its current state benefits all, regardless of ideological animosity and class struggles. What more could we ask for?

  4. John Schroeter says:

    The Town of Thurman is not on the map, you should know better than to depend on zip-codes.

    • Zephyr says:

      The map shows school districts. I think Thurman is in the Johnsburg and Warrensburg school districts.

  5. Jay says:

    Hard to recruit young people to move to the ADK. You have downstate politicians and environmentalists that make any economic development impossible. Option two…work remotely from the ADK….with poor internet that’s not an option either.

    • Peter says:

      Now the downstate politicians are purposing a 55 cent per gallon gas tax to help pay for government subsidized renewable energy.
      Anyone that lives in the Adirondacks how much driving is involved to get essential services and healthcare. We are already paying a state tax and sales tax on gasoline. With property tax increases each year this is just another nail in the coffin for the residents.

  6. JB says:

    Peter, you have done a great service to us by writing this article! You hit the nail on the head here!

    If I’m reading between the lines, I think that you may be trying to gently bring an analytical perspective to the increasingly politically fueled “rural repopulation” debate that we here so much about in the news–especially post-Covid. I have found that the push to attract “younger people” has become far more intense in the times since Covid has spurred a renewed interest in moving “out to the country” among young urbanites. Many of the publications or networks that are heavily promoting this idea as of late are also those who tend to skew to a younger audience and have younger management–for example, VICE News started putting out story after story about rural issues quite conspicuously in the past year, after mostly ignoring rural America in its previous years.

    My point is that the rural repopulation crusades have shifted towards trying to attract, almost exclusively it seems, young people–typically towards areas like the Adirondack Park that, although being intense places of interest for the younger generation, are not anywhere near the top of the endless list of rural places that need the population infusion to stay alive. Even if the Adirondack Park was a place that absolutely needed to see population growth to remain viable (it definitely is not), the “attract younger residents” motto is far from pragmatic, as is clearly elucidated in this article.

    On the contrary, from someone who actually lives within the Park, it is evident that looks can be deceiving to those who are coming from an outside standpoint. Population is the Park is booming, pre-Covid Park communities were not hanging on for dear life after a long consistent decline, and Park communities have no lacking for a tax-base that would effect essential services. Those types of problems only become evident when one crosses the Park boundary on their way to the rest of rural New York State. Non-Park rural areas in, for example, St. Lawrence county, are dealing with a huge problem in empty schools due to declining enrollment, a lack of an essential tax-base, and widespread poverty.

    Why not focus efforts on places outside of the Park that have the infrastructure to support the larger populations which they once had and desperately need an infusion of younger people? Why focus instead on manufacturing a problem in the Park where relatively little exists, where there has never been infrastructure to support a larger population since no major recent population decline has occurred and instead schools, roads, and waste-management are already being overloaded? And why make the most protected wilderness preserves in the country the target of repopulation efforts? Places like the Adirondack Park are not terra incognita that need to be resettled, despite this appearance to the uninitiated that has been created by a century of careful regulation to prevent suburban sprawl! The Adirondack Park is in fact a place brimming with already existing and thriving communities who, for the most part, are not playing a large part of this discussion about “resettlement”.

    All of this is to say that I fear that naive politicization of this issue is coinciding with a time when the protections of the Park are being eroded, and repopulation crusades could exacerbate such harms. In our push to rightfully address long-standing unfairnesses in our society, the Park should not be finagled into blank target from which to take our post-colonial pound of flesh. If we continue to manufacture problems and ideologize the Park into something that is is not, eventually the Park may indeed cease to be the Park as we have known it. The ideas that are responsible for the successful preservation of this place have always been radical, and little has changed as the latest generation pushes to overturn those ideas. But there is hope in people like Peter Bauer who thoughtfully educate generation after generation about those conservation ideals and why they are so important.

    A Park Resident

    • Lillian says:

      JB, I am also a park resident, and I totally agree with you.

      • Nick Gates says:

        My wife and I used to live in Inlet. Still visit several times a year. We simply just could not afford to live there with what jobs are available and the cost of housing. Would love to move back some day if it was a little easier. We are both in our 30s and have two kids, who also love the adirondacks.

      • m says:

        JB & Lillian

        Sooo noble, as long as it doesn’t happen here. Typical.

        • Lillian says:

          Not “sooo noble”. I live here. I drive 60+ miles round trip for reasonably priced groceries. The same for health care if you don’t choose to use the regional “health centers”. I commuted the same distance to work. Try finding daycare. The Adirondacks are beautiful and appealing. Are you willing to give up convince for lack of readily accessed necessities? Limited internet? If not, you want to change the very aspects you claim to love. You can’t have both in this environment.

          • Rob says:

            Exactly Lillian. The times when things were good in the Adirondacks was due to generations of settlement. People HAD to make due and work hard to survive. Its not that way any more.

    • Compare StarLake in 1975 and today You can’t be serious when you say Adirondack communities are thriving. I will say it again, towns such as Fine need to start exploring ways to leave the park and it is because of groups like Protect the Adirondacks.

      • JB says:

        Peter cited a few good statistics in the article. The point is that the situation is in the Park not as dire as it is made out to be RELATIVE to other rural places. You can find the relevant data fairly easily (US Census and ACS, 2020 Census data coming April 31) and make up your mind for yourself. Population is not declining as much as people portray, which is apparent to people who live within the Park, not just in Essex County, but also throughout in all directions.

        The fact that the demand to move to the Park has increased so dramatically in recent months among young people, who would traditionally seek out city life, is a testament to just how little of a population recruitment problem that the Park has. The fact that property values are high is another sign which will indicate to the careful observer that, even Star Lake, is far from a ghost town.

        There is limited private land within the Park and the largest areas of private land that exist are prevented from being developed into dense suburban-style housing developments by law. Therefore, it may appear to the visitor that places are less populated than some would like. Once you stay in a place for long enough, though, the residents who have quietly been living here all along come out of the woodwork. If there is a private property within the Park, chances are someone owns it and is actively paying taxes and maintaining it.

        In a perfect world we could have our cake and eat it too, but in our country, and even more so within the Park, there are some serious issues that come along with population increase that people should consider. Hamlet Areas are typically more expansive to live within than Rural Use Areas from a pure property value plus property tax perspective. There is a good reason for this, which can be illustrated if we imagine what would happen if we decided to enact a systematic campaign (as some are proposing) to increase population in Rural Use Areas. In Hamlet Areas, population is densely concentrated, because there is less of a limit on development density, which is theoretically good, but in practice, that is not always good for affordability in a federated capitalist system. In Rural Use Areas, the absolute maximum density that is allowed under the Park land use classification system means that we could in theory increase the population of rural use areas by 5-10 times, maybe even more. The process would take years and cost millions. We could need to hire more staff at APA, build brand new infrastructure in challenging terrain, build new houses and roads where none have ever existed, etc. Property values would skyrocket as the area became gentrified. Local governments would need to grow dramatically so that the schools do not become overwhelmed, trash does not pile up in the streets, home inspection backlogs do not occur, roads can handle higher use, and the internet and power grid are not pushed past their limits. In the beginning, this would mean increasing taxes substantially. But the real kicker is that, in our system, once a government starts to grow past a certain size, the more it wants to keep growing–the more taxes increase, the more property valuations increase, the more incentives are put in place by localities for people to move in and thus the more the cycle continues. Then the Park becomes a place reserved for the super-rich. Welcome to 21st century America.

        Forgive me if I do not think that this type of situation would be “noble” or socially equitable. The environmental problems associated with, for example, thousands of new people living off of septic tanks in shallow, low-permeability soils, is a whole other side of the issue. I just don’t see the benefits for anyone. Park residents should not be made to feel ashamed to stand up for these interests. Hopefully I have also made my case for why outsiders with an interest in moving to the Park or visiting would also benefit greatly from heeding these types of “environmentalist” or “NIMBYist” warnings. Things are not always as they appear!

  7. Edmund Lushefski says:

    I tried moving to raybrook . Don’t help when the only jobs don’t pay the taxes.i finally got my wife to realize florida had so much more opportunities.

  8. Rob says:

    Common Ground Alliance. I understand their concern but what they are looking for and what drives the world are 2 different things. Geographic business analysis to locate new places of business spend millions on research. Take Amsterdam for instance close to the Adirondacks but not in the Adirondacks. Business (who hire people) have to be on major highways. Amazon, Dollar General, Target etc. Draw the people near not far. The new generation wants easy, burgers, internet, access to services. The Adirondacks are rural and not of interest to most of the newer generations. Its proven market research spent buy billion dollar companies to set up shop where the people are most likely to help them. And not in the Adirondacks. A playground to down state as noted and retired folks that want to get away. We will see what the 2020 census says, that will start the story in a world we have never seen. When people leave the city for the rural life, upstate to them is Kingston the Adirondacks are the woods. See how many people want to be an hour + from the nearest hospital if they are sick or an emergency. I’m a realist, where I live in the Adks there is no cell service unless something drastically changes, but that’s ok with me.

  9. Chuck jones says:

    Prior to 1970, birth control was not as common, I believe that it has a significant impact on birth rates and family size today.

  10. Oliver Stevens says:

    You should rename this article, I read it because I thought it was going to have information on the programs attracting people to the Adirondacks not give me an overview of NYS population trend, can I have my ten minutes back please?

  11. Zephyr says:

    Be careful what you wish for. I live in a place near the park that is growing and taxes just go up and up as the demands for infrastructure grow: new schools, water, roads, sewers, police, fire departments, social services, you name it. Watch out for gentrification too, which is what happens when the new people who move in have a lot more money than those already there. What seems expensive to a local might seem like a bargain to someone moving from New York or Boston. I’m not saying new people are all bad, just that you might not be getting what you wished for.

  12. Stephen Rose says:

    I don’t believe housing was mentioned. People moving to the Adirondacks
    need to see affordable low maintenance, well-insulated buildings. Struggling with a Victorian is not most people’s cup of tea, especially in the North Country climate and considering the dearth of contractors. Start with housing, and they will come.

  13. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “I’m not saying new people are all bad, just that you might not be getting what you wished for.”

    Tis so true! Urbanites bring with them urban habits! Many of them need their big-box stores, and I suppose you can expect that not long after their arrival they might be petitioning for a Walmart to be erected as near as possible. Urbanites need light as darkness scares them, or their fear of burglars have been seeded such that they have grown to know that lights keep burglar’s away and so petitions go up to put up more streetlights due to their fears; or they keep their bright night-lights on all night so that mister or missus stargazer down the road suddenly have less of the spectacular view they had for all of those years up to the new neighbor’s arrival.

    This same conversation has been going around for decades in the Adirondacks! I recall some years back I was sitting in an eatery at North Creek doing breakfast. It was just me and some locals and I overheard their conversation (but of course) and what I got from them was relative to this same conversation above. Their take on the matter was that they liked things just the way they were, no crowds and lots of quiet space.

    • louis curth says:

      Thank you Charlie Stehlin for transporting me back to my own memories of countless meals enjoyed at Smith’s Restaurant in North Creek, and for the many wonderful conversations to be had with all the regulars there and especially with Anna Smith, the majordomo who presided over all. The newcomers in town weren’t so bad either, once you got to know them better…

  14. BB says:

    I would move to the Adirondacks in a heartbeat if the jobs were there. Everything I’ve seen is low paying. I would definitely be struggling paying bills and a mortgage.

  15. Donnie Grooms says:

    I always thought I’d want to raise a family in Lake Placid. I have four kids under the age of Seven. However, I moved from NYS eighteen years ago because of taxes. If it’s one thing NYS is proud of it’s their taxes. Shame really. I miss the Adirondack Park with all my heart.

  16. ADK Anne says:

    I remember when home and land prices were very reasonable here before the park. Then, a couple of Real Estate brokers from NY city moved into town and started advertising in the city papers. People started moving up from the city and prices (and taxes) started going up. Then the Adirondack Park was formed. The city people wanted things to be like the city so zoning was started. I still wish our little towns were like they used to be.

    • JB says:

      I also have fond memories of many small towns and picturesque rural expanses that have really lost character since my childhood. The APA was created to prevent the problem that you speak of, but there are too many competing interests for them to be completely effective in the chartered mission, more so now.

      What does not make sense to me is that there are so many Park communities who do not want governments to increase development, yet so many interest groups that are pushing for exactly that. Only in the Park would local residents be stigmatized so much for speaking out when something that they do not want is foisted upon them, either so that somebody can make more money or somebody can realize their ideological agenda. It is like the farmer who prunes the tree so that it grows back exactly the way he wants it–or perhaps a better metaphor is of the farmer who clears the forest so that he can replace it with neatly manicured, short-lived cash crops.

      At a certain point, as some would have it, it does not benefit personal liberties or the common good. Similar situations have happened elsewhere. If one ever visits Russia or neighboring China, they will find that the countryside is crisscrossed by massive infrastructure projects and idealist monuments that the local citizens did not want and do not benefit from, all in the name of ideology and modernization. There are plenty of great books that elaborate on this subject, which is a major theme of some of the most famous and beloved novels in the world, for those who are interested.

      • Charlie Stehlin says:

        You are so very right in all you say above JB! So eloquently put thank you. What they’re doing to our landscape is just an outright shame… tear up woodlots and fields, mow them down, rape, pillage, call it what you will…. there’s just no looking ahead for the problems which will arise down the road from all of the concrete jungles we create.  

        “Only in the Park would local residents be stigmatized so much for speaking out when something that they do not want is foisted upon them, either so that somebody can make more money or somebody can realize their ideological agenda.”

        > Expect more of the same what with this big push to bring more people into the Adirondacks JB! When you invite the urban folk in, their urban ways will come with them; or shall I say, ‘invite the capitalists in and in with them comes their capitalists ways.’ It’s all about money and convenience with them. There’s nothing sacred anymore as you well know….not to those who incuriously go along with the flow anyway!

        • JB says:

          Thank you, Charlie. I had overlooked your comment in the email updates.

          Exactly. There IS a push to bring people in–whether it is coming from interest groups, the State, local governments or outside investors. Honestly, it is easy to get bogged down in all of the terminology and all of the muck kicked up by everyone who wants their piece. The friction between government and subject and between disparate ideological communities does exist and cannot be wished away by negating one side. Those frictions are stronger now and interest in developing the Park is suddenly heightened, or at least it appears that way if we are to believe the hype. Many local residents who have spent years and made sacrifices to slowly build their lives do not want a sudden flurry of investment or development to change the communities that they love. Maybe some do. There is nothing sinister there. But gaslighting one side who fights for their own interests in order to perpetuate a moralistic fallacy is needlessly cruel, and it only feels right to bring this out into the sunlight and own it.


  17. William F Rushby says:

    Think “Amish”!

  18. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Thank you Charlie Stehlin for transporting me back to my own memories of countless meals enjoyed at Smith’s Restaurant in North Creek……”

    Memories, dreams, reflections….is all we have in the long run louis.

  19. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Donnie Grooms says: “If it’s one thing NYS is proud of it’s their taxes. Shame really”

    No matter where you go they’re going to get your money one way or the other Donnie. And if you have the money you must know that a large portion of your tax dollars goes towards helping others out, they fund State parks, and lots of good things come out of tax dollars in NY State. Not so in other states where there’s no state taxes or less taxes…..the less taxes the less generosity there is in going towards helping others and supporting good things which benefit the public at large. Isn’t that what it should be about….helping others! Our early history has ample accounts of this as being the way things used to be in this great country of ours…..helping others out. Of course they had it much rougher than spoiled us of course, they were more at equals with one another generally speaking.

    Sure there’s a lot of waste, but there’s a lot of good which comes out of our tax dollars too you know! And also it’s about quality of life too, like the Adirondacks, which you say you miss with all your heart. Living beyond our material means is part of the woes that induce the gripes within us! I am convinced of this!

    • Boreas says:

      I agree with Charlie. Nothing is free. There is allotta smoke and mirrors out there – taxes disguised as fees, etc.. I lived in a Midwest state a few years and while the taxes were much lower, schools were not at the same standard as NYS and the tag fees for your car depended on value and other things, so they were often hundreds of dollars depending on what you drove. There was virtually no snow removal.

      Granted NYS has tax problems for many reasons, but taken as a whole, the grass is not always greener – and there may be no woods at all…

  20. ADKresident says:

    The very definition of rural is: of or relating to the country, country people or life, or agriculture vs the very definition of urban: elating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city.

    Obviously, there will be 2 different mindsets with often, opposing expectations, depending on where you come from/reside, age, etc.. That does not make one above, better or smarter than the other; it just makes for very different ways of living. However, when urban mindsets impose their way of life, thinking and expectations on those who live in “rural” areas, such as our beloved ADKs, BECAUSE it is rural, knowing there are some sacrifices made of immediate access to some modern conveniences, in order to maintain a ‘rural’ lifestyle, there is always conflict.

    Why not allow ADKs to grow organically with those who choose to live here and have knowingly counted the costs, making the decision to sacrifice and trade some of the ‘modern conveniences’ of city/suburban life, in order to live this lifestyle because, let’s face it: It is not for everyone. But in exchange, they will enjoy alongside those residing in ‘rural ADKs”, a lifestyle that prefers to protect and enjoy open lands, a love/respect for nature, small communities, and a slower-paced lifestyle. I really do not see how you can have it both ways without compromising the integrity of the very definition of the word, ‘rural’ and risk losing it, forever. Yet, nevertheless, the clashing of the 2 mindsets will continue until both sides recognizes it’s just a dichotomy of 2 very contrary, everyday lifestyles.

  21. Lee Nellis says:

    One thing that is missing in all this it seems to me is an awareness of the critical importance of schools in community life. I have seen this everywhere in 40+ years of professional work in rural communities. Schools provide more than education. They are foci of community identity and spirit and also the major employer in so many small towns. When they shrink, for whatever reason, those benefits also shrink.

    So while its perfectly legitimate to ask if the Park is the place to promote growth, I think the downside of losing foundational community institutions must be factored in. There are indeed other rural NY places where growth could be accommodated with less impact, but if we’re going to have communities in the Park, let’s see what we can do to make sure they are healthy ones.

    • JB says:

      Lee, I guess my perspective on that is that school districts serving Adirondack Park communities have always been some of the smallest in the state, not in terms of area served (the bus routes are some of the longest in the state), but in terms of class size and capacity.

      There is some good data out there on school enrollment, since this type of thing is held in high importance and particularly heavily monitored. The data that I saw back in 2020 (newly released pre-2020 data) did show a slight decline in enrollment in some places within the Park (0-5% in my neck of the woods), but keep in mind that in school districts of 60 – 200 children that is <3 – <10 students. And let us not forget that those schools are probably some of the most overfunded schools per student in the country. With that kind of money, teachers are not exactly hard to hire. In roadless northern Canadian communities, which are similar to Adirondack communities in terms of population size and influx of government funding, there is not a lack of teachers because the money to incentivize teachers to relocate is provided by the Commonwealth–in the Adirondacks, the parallel is that childless residents, vacation home owners, and state lands are all major sources of revenue for Park localities that position those localities particularly well for meeting all of their school funding needs, since those are pure revenue sources that do not heavily utilize the community services that they fund.

      One more point that I will make is that across the board in the Adirondacks during the past year, many Adirondack schools are actually OVER capacity. The influx of just a few Covid refugees has overwhelmed historic levels and thus existing capacity. Another example of how much the "degraded community" stories are exaggerated here in the Park. Now, those same enrollment statistics that I referenced earlier had non-Park upstate school districts north and west of the I-87/I-90 corridors firmly in the red. Rural areas outside of the Park are not experiencing as much organic growth, so they are better candidates for additional incentivization. Also, rural areas outside of the Park in places like St. Lawrence, Franklin, Montgomery and Oneida counties are really struggling with lack of funding and rising poverty. Adirondack communities comparatively are extremely wealthy.

      • JB says:

        P. S. The picture for this article looks like it is skewed by about 5-10% from the data that I saw if I remember correctly. I recognized it as a screenshot from the Northern Forest Center report, not sure what I had seen. But that being said, the small size of the school districts still remains a factor that will increase volatility in the data on a percent basis. 25% of Inlet’s enrollment is 5000 to <40 students. The smaller ones provided a much better sense of community and a more personalized education.

        • JB says:

          Word press botched my comment, it should read:

          P. S. The picture for this article looks like it is skewed by about 5-10% from the data that I saw if I remember correctly. I recognized it as a screenshot from the Northern Forest Center report, not sure what I had seen. But that being said, the small size of the school districts still remains a factor that will increase volatility in the data on a percent basis. 25% of Inlet’s enrollment is 5000 to <40 students. The smaller ones provided a much better sense of community and a more personalized education.

          • JB says:

            So weird, comment messed up AGAIN. I guess that is what I get for posting from my relatives’ place, away from my blazing fast Adirondack internet. It should read:

            P. S. The picture for this article looks like it is skewed by about 5-10% from the data that I saw if I remember correctly. I recognized it as a screenshot from the Northern Forest Center report, not sure what I had seen. But that being said, the small size of the school districts still remains a factor that will increase volatility in the data on a percent basis. 25% of Inlet’s enrollment is 5000 to <40 students. The smaller ones provided a much better sense of community and a more personalized education.

            • JB says:

              Ok, one more time I will try, then I will give up. I think it is an error with Wordpress not escaping brackets properly in the rendered HTML.

              P. S. The picture for this article looks like it is skewed by about 5-10% from the data that I saw if I remember correctly. I recognized it as a screenshot from the Northern Forest Center report, not sure what I had seen. But that being said, the small size of the school districts still remains a factor that will increase volatility in the data on a percent basis. 25% of Inlet’s enrollment is less than 5 students. A 2020-21 map will show large percent gains for many of those school districts.

              I personally grew up in many different sized school districts, from less than 5000 to less than 40 students. The smaller ones provided a much better sense of community and a more personalized education.

              • Lillian says:

                LoL! Thanks for the clarification. I wondered what was wrong with my reading comprehension! ?

                • JB says:

                  Yeah, glad someone got a laugh out of my struggles. I’m a computer science person, so I had all kinds of crazy theories in my head about what was going on, and I had to figure it out! My advice: don’t use brackets in comments, looks like the upstream coders at the hosting company had a minor hiccup on that one, probably nothing that Almanack can do about it.

  22. Susan says:

    Good, more room, fresh air, privacy and quiet for me, and less litter, light, noise, traffic, pollution and annoyance.

  23. Zephyr says:

    I’ve lived in several places that are popular with tourists and I see the same attitudes toward visitors from the locals: please spend your money here and then leave, or even better just send us your money and don’t come at all. Living in the Adirondacks would not be possible for most people without vast amounts of tax dollars injected from the State, and most of that money comes from Manhattan and New York City. I believe something like 50% of all income tax revenue in the state comes from the city. So, the next time you drive on a state road thank those urban residents, most of whom never visit the Adirondacks but continue to send their money to you.

    • JB says:

      Zephyr, you are right that Adirondack Park communities are already heavily subsidized by the State! My point is that we are already subsidized enough. Population on the whole is not falling relative to other rural towns, land appreciation is exceptionally high, interest in the region is exceptionally high, funding is more than sufficient. Why spend even more State money here to further these trends? It seems like that would only be justified if most of the above were negated. Demand perpetually outstripping supply, as it has for 50+ years, and gentrification are such that I fear such over-corrective measures would further exclude or hurt the quality of life of those who are not in the top income tiers.

      On the county tax level, it is a little bit different in all but Essex and Hamilton counties. County taxes, unlike Town taxes, are not typically being funneled disproportionally into rural areas. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that smaller cities downstream of Adirondack Park areas within the same county do get their fair share of county taxes. They certainly need it: such cities have low-income neighborhoods with low taxable values and large amounts of tax-exempt properties in the form of industrials, non-profits, universities, government lands, etc. I have always thought that this is why the county taxes are so low yet the roads are so impeccably maintained in Hamilton County.

      Anyway, the point is that if somebody wants to come and make the sacrifices that we have all made to put down roots here, we will welcome them into the community. But if downstate people want to push even more systematic government programs to inject even more exclusion-inducing and corrupting money onto us, you cannot fault us for being against that. Park residents would not make the sacrifices that we make and endure the hardships that we endure if living in the Park was as impossible as everyone makes it out to be and if we did not feel that we had everything that we needed. There are places that have it much, much worse, communities who receive little sympathy from the outside, in this county, and we are thankful for what we have.

  24. Vanessa says:

    So I feel a bit like I’m trapped in Groundhog Day but nonetheless I am compelled to comment, which is more of a “me” issue than anything lol, and so…

    …in reading through these comments, I’d like to remind us to beware of reliance on untrue tropes about “city people.” Or untrue tropes about “rural people” as well. Peoples likes, dislikes and hopes and dreams are not defined by their zip code (or their age!). Choosing to live any place is a luxury and a privilege that most people in the world still don’t have. There are characteristics of Park residents, but they’re so much more complex than just a preference for proximate number of neighbors. Wanting new voices or faces in a community certainly doesn’t preclude respect for long-time residents, and it’s sad to me that many of us still come to this conversation with a lot of assumptions.

    • JB says:

      You know what, I am the same way. Follow your own personal standards, your personal sense of justice, even if it may seem crazy by the standards of others.

      I will give you that you have a fine point about ideological assumptions…As long as your statements are not intended to be an ultima ratio in support of your own ideology–an ignoratio elenchi combined with a Bulveristic circular argument. Stating an unsolvable injustice, without offering any realistic path forward that does not create further injustice, and stating an opponent’s historical or psychological biases, in effect falsely conflating a red herring with causality, are common Fabian tactics that have been used to attempt to win disputes for millennia, and 2021 is no different.

    • Zephyr says:

      The original 46er, founder of the Wilderness Society, Bob Marshall was born and died in New York City and is buried in Brooklyn.

    • Lee Nellis says:

      While this format doesn’t allow for liking, you get a “like.” Stereotypes are not much help. I also point out that the recent recommendation to attempt to recruit more young families into this region was NOT made by anyone downstate. It was made by people from the North Country who are concerned about their communities. You can agree or not, but its not about the imposition of some outside plan, I would also like to say that a large brown truck just brought me a jar of salsa from a village in New Mexico. I could have sent a jar of maple syrup back as easily. The notion that its uniquely “hard” to live here (which is a meme in every rural area) is not supported by much evidence.

      • JB says:

        Lee, you seem to be knowledgeable, so maybe you know something that I do not. But I thought that the report was written by the Northern Forest Center, who I believe to be either a lobby group or consultants. It did not look like a full-blown exploratory study or even an impact statement, but rather a brief report that offered solutions to further a pre-decided agenda. The surveys about public opinion on the relocation matter looked like an afterthought that did not seem transparent or large enough to be majorly statistically relevant.

        I could never find anything non-abstruse about who actually commissioned the report. But chances are it was not commissioned by a private cadre of local residents who just suddenly decided to cobble together thousands of dollars to pay consulting fees. Chances are it was funded by a local or state government board, or a special interest lobby, who usually will commission these types of things when they want or need more revenue. I would be surprised if it were any different, but you are welcome to surprise me.

        The salsa example is a good one. The USPS and friends will work with anyone to deliver just about anywhere. So will rural school districts. And commuting to work, even if commuters live in the most isolated locations in the Park, is common, just like everywhere else.

        • Lee Nellis says:

          I used to work for an outfit that was similar to the Northern Forest Center, though with one big difference. The NFC is membership based and the single biggest part of its revenue is from members. It is best to think of these organizations as think tanks. They do some advocacy, but are not lobbyists in the traditional sense. They are consultants sometimes, but don’t follow the money like a for-profit firm. The have a thematic mission that more or less guides their work.

          You are right about the lack of clarity about who sponsored the work in this case, but it seems to have grown out of the Common Ground Alliance. I don’t have time to ferret out who actually paid, although given the membership basis of the Northern Forest Center, some of the funding might have come from individuals. I have interacted with a few of the folks who are listed as major contributors to the work (not of money) and some of their organizations. My sense, and this is based on 40+ years of professionally watching rural communities change, is that most of them would be happy to have the population of the ADK stay just as it is, IF it could be balanced to support the schools, provide volunteers for community events, and volunteer EMTs, firefighters, etc. These are real issues: I am working with a community elsewhere that is down to 2 EMTs and is 30 miles from back-up. That is a problem.

          Now one could ask, as a purely practical matter, if it is possible to solve this demographic dilemma through public action. The answer is murky. Yes, maybe, in part, in some places at certain times. No, maybe, in part, in some places at certain times. I have seen every combination of the answers. What’s for sure is that the answer is not as simple as just providing broadband. The report addresses that in what I think is a responsible (but perhaps incomplete) way.

          Those who wish to maintain their current level of peace and quiet and access to the woods are often at a disadvantage. A little growth promises benefits (like having more than 2 EMTs) but how do you make sure its just a little? And in the right places, the right way? This should be possible here, if anywhere, due to the regional planning regime in the Adirondacks. But here’s the paradox, local folks who just want to be left alone, have created a political reality in which the Adirondack Park Agency isn’t visionary anymore and, while the results are still better than in a lot of rural places, is on a path of incrementally accommodating growth that results in precisely the changes the people who created this reality say they don’t want.

          So, I will conclude with a conundrum for you to ponder, the ADK is, at least at the moment, like a lot of other rural places. Those who most want it to stay the same are actually ensuring radical change.

          • JB says:

            Interesting. Thank you for taking the time, Lee.

            I wish that, if people are going to commission this type of report, they would be more transparent about who they are and what they intend. This is the type of thing that creates distrust between Park residents and other groups, including local governments. Whoever it is that incentivized this, they have certainly done a good job with media outreach–this is being picked up everywhere, and the headline becomes unequivocally, without context: “Adirondack Communities Desperate, Dire, Disappearing, etc”. And then this is inevitably turned into a rallying cry for all varieties of political causes–income inequality, systemic racism, generational inequality, elitism, and so on. This not only distracts from the issues faced by Park residents, but also has the potential to backfire against them, or at the very least create situations that are not in the best interest of the Park or its residents (remember, the forest preserve benefits the common good). That is why I felt the need to give my hats off to Peter for writing the article (admittedly, this has turned into a marathon comment session).

            I disagree with your conclusion that limiting localized development will necessarily create more of the same. Conversely, I do not think that pushing for more development, however well intentioned, is the solution here, nor do I think that this was ever the vision of the APA. The logic behind the idea that rural anti-development coalitions are creating a “political reality” of inevitable runaway growth is a flawed one.

            The source of the problem is that the paradigm that “everything should stay the same” is a fallacy, but so is the ultimatum which you cite between that versus local development. The Park, alongside other rural places, have been changing for a long time due to factors outside of local control, namely, modernization and centralization. Take education as an example. A century ago, every backyard had their own schoolhouse, abandoned remnants of which can be seen throughout rural areas to this day. But then, the automobile came, public education laws were enacted, and other technological advances occurred that led to the centralization of education, with great benefit to the public. School districts in rural New York state merge and further centralize every year, driven further now by economic realities and exploding costs demanded by 21st century education. This may not check every box of every ideal, but it is more often than not the best possible result of a careful analysis of the alternatives.

            The Adirondacks should be no different, but, unfortunately, the issue is more emotionally charged and controversial here, driven by anti-environmentalists, anti-elitists, and others. Some localized entities in the Adirondacks that have become antiquated will and are inevitably being absorbed by larger, already existing entities that are more capable of easily meeting modern demands, whether they be smaller school districts, healthcare providers, banks, businesses, ISPs, etc. Technology and economics necessitate it. Those who would want to artificially keep a sinking ship afloat (or build a bigger one in its place), holding to the false premise that we will all go down with the ship, are the ones who will create realities that do not benefit the Park and its residents, either by creating a reality in which large scale development counter-intuitively and undesirably replaces organically disappearing smaller entities, necessitated by economies of scale (e.g., government bloat; building a much larger school in place of the old one that can only absorb an additional dozen students in order to resist centralization), or by creating a reality in which inadequate and insolvent infrastructure is subsidized to perpetuate the nostalgia or livelihoods of a few beneficiaries, even if centralizing is cheaper and will provide better services to the community at large.

            Obviously, other factors are at play in the largest Northeastern forest preserve, but the Park is uniquely positioned to benefit from modern technologies and centralization. In fact, centralization of infrastructure, which both decreased the need and desirability for a human footprint in the 19th century Adirondacks and created the need for large protected water reservoirs to feed growing cities, could arguably be cited as the major cause of the Park’s inception. By continuing to utilize such advances in regional planning and technologies, rather than going backward, we are enabled to further preserve the “wilderness character” of the Park organically and without compromising essential services to already existing communities or resorting to relocation strategies that will inevitably disrupt the character of the Park. Technology allows us to sustain existing communities in novel ways, but it will never allow us to preserve timeless wilderness whilst increasing human population in that very wilderness.

  25. rdc says:

    three words:
    High. Speed. Internet.

    • JB says:

      Electromagnetic energy, given the same conductors, does not care whether it is travelling in the Adirondacks or Silicon Valley, it will travel so quickly that distances on Earth are inconsequential to the average internet user. Nearly every Adirondack property that has a house within reasonable proximity to a road has a pair of copper phone lines, even if it does not have power service! That also happens to be what most of the country is using as their conductor for broadband. The only reason at this point for a community to have dial-up has nothing to do with the final end-run lines to the consumer, but rather is a problem on the upstream side–repeaters and fancy circuitry is needed.

      That being said, I have found that those Adirondack places that do have broadband infrastructure in place (the majority of places that I am familiar with), the broadband is actually much faster than other rural areas. My theory is that this is due to the fact that fewer people are sharing the lines, and thus there are fewer channels to multiplex and less optimization that is needed to transmit entropy (low loss data). When we really slow down to non-Adirondack farm country speeds is when we have a huge influx of tourists, which overwhelms upstream circuitry. I would be curious, honestly, to hear from people who actually live in the Park about internet speeds. It is certainly not an issue in my area. Didn’t Explorer run a story about how we do not even have any good data on who has and does not have broadband? Maybe that is why the popular assumption that the Adirondacks is all on dial-up or satellite just doesn’t ring a bell for me. Or maybe I’m just lucky.

  26. Jim Martin says:

    Well, Mr. Bauer is perfecting his talents relating to the presentation of “cherry-picked” information and selected use of data points that support his preconceived bias. What about regions within Florida, Texas, Montana, Idaho, and I could go on where the population among rural areas are growing? Young people are moving in and establishing a way of life. Why can’t we strive to have the Adirondack region be like them rather than this poverty stricken region with increasingly blighted communities? The simple facts are these: Yes, NYS overall is population decline. Years of over taxation to support an ever-growing and ubiquitous state bureaucracy is even catching up with even the population of the liberal bastion in NYC now experiencing decline. The Adirondack region is the point of the population loss spear. Over regulation, uber-taxation, business and industry (obviously) moving out, and the resulting loss of quality employment have taken a severe and brutal toll. This dynamic is now being exasperated as the overall state government is approaching a fiscal cliff. Please stop insulting our intelligence by trying to mask the population decline that is uniquely the result of singularly focused policy initiative over a period of decades – overreaching environmental regulations with little or no attention the social and economic needs of year-round residents. These lame comparisons to selected data points and regions is laughable. The simple truth is – communities are organic entities – they NEED to grow or they die. Unfortunately we’re witnessing this play out in a very slow and painful manner.

  27. Lee Nellis says:

    I am surprised you didn’t throw in the Adirondack weather. What you didn’t do was offer even one scrap of data to support your claim of cherry-picking. Its ok to have disagreements and we as a society tolerate unsupported opinions n the name of free speech, but name-calling is unnecessary and – if anyone in charge is reading this – should be moderated out.

    As for the claims advanced here: As someone who recently moved to NY, I too have anecdotes about the frustration of dealing with state government. But I can also tell stories about the frustration of dealing with state agencies in Idaho and Montana. Is it worse here? Possibly, but NY is not unique and people don’t make expensive and complicated locational decisions because it is easier to register a car somewhere else.

    It is true that one can find rural areas with better demographic balance than the Adirondacks in Idaho and Montana, but one can also drive just a few miles from those places to a rural county whose demographics are identical or, often, worse. We are dealing with large structural issues, not minor differences in governance. And while I am too lazy to run the numbers, the claim that the Adirondacks are the “spearhead” of rural distress in NY begs for proof.

    Since we’re tossing out hypotheses this morning, here’s mine: Despite the fact that is has become moribund and needs revitalization the regulatory regime here in the Adirondacks adds value to this region in comparison to similar rural regions. Or to say it another way for clarity and to be sure we have a testable proposition, the communities of the Adirondacks would more closely resemble those of poorer rural regions than they do now if it were not for the value added by the regulations. Disprove that.

    • JB says:

      Lee, I am glad to see that you posted this. You saved me some time.
      We may have our disagreements, but ad hominem attacks are not productive. And I am happy to say that I agree with you on this general point.

      There is always a counter-balancing trade-off that comes along with any public or economic policy. As an example, Texas has no income tax, but property taxes in Texas are higher than in New York state. My understanding is that Texas is experiencing a population increase largely by virtue of the growth of its many major metropolitan areas, not via growth of the Hill Country or Trans-Pecos ranch lands.

      If there is any doubt that environmental conservation policies may be to blame for population decline, we can easily disprove that correlation. Idaho’s population is growing and is projected to continue growing, yet about 70% of Idaho’s total land is publicly owned and under some kind of protection. About 90% of Idaho’s public lands are federally owned and, thus, constitutionally tax-exempt unless explicit additional compensation is approved by Congress. Montana’s population is growing and is projected to continue growing, yet about 37.5% of Montana’s total land is publicly owned and under some kind of protection. About 80% of Montana’s public lands are federally owned and, thus, constitutionally tax-exempt unless explicit additional compensation is approved by Congress. In contrast, about 37.1% of New York state’s total land is publicly owned, with all state lands within the Adirondack Park being locally taxable. This funds Adirondack communities, a luxury not afforded to communities in the American West, where nearly 50% of all lands are tax-exempt federally owned and state lands are often tax-exempt as well.

      Back in Texas, a mere 5% of Texas lands are publicly owned, with about 35% of that federally owned. The population of Texas is indeed growing, but it would be an error to attribute this to a lack of protected lands. Most Texas public lands are located in very rural areas, such as the Chihuahuan Desert, where the vast majority of the state’s population growth is not occurring. Here is an excerpt from the Texas Demographic Center:

      “In today’s world, population growth and urbanization are
      becoming synonymous (U.N. 2015). Texas is no exception. In
      1910, 24.1 percent of the Texas population resided in urban areas.
      By 2010, the urban share of Texas population had risen to 84.7
      percent. Conversely, in 1910, 75.9 percent of Texans lived in rural
      areas compared to 15.3 percent in 2010. Thus, as Figure 1 shows,
      in 100 years, the urban-rural shares of the Texas population have
      undergone a complete reversal.

      Based on current trends, the metropolitan population
      in Texas will double in 40 years.

      Texas presently has 82 metropolitan or urban counties with
      the remaining 172 counties classified as non-metropolitan or rural
      [1]… If the recent annual growth rate of 1.7 percent in the urban counties continues, the metropolitan population will double in 40 years. For the rural counties, with a growth rate of 0.3 percent, it would take 218 years to double their
      population. Based on population projections from the Texas Demographic Center’s, 94.6 percent of the state’s 2010-2050 population growth will occur in the 82 metropolitan counties while the 172 non-metropolitan counties will account for only 5.4 percent of this growth (Texas Demographic Center 2014). Thus, the future Texas population will increasingly be located in or around its cities.”

      • JB says:

        Sorry, scrap this part it was confusing: “Most Texas public lands are located in very rural areas, such as the Chihuahuan Desert, where the vast majority of the state’s population growth is not occurring.”
        It was meant to be followed by something like “but those who would use that as a basis for demonizing conservation would be ignoring the bigger picture…most rural places in Texas experiencing stunted growth are overwhelmingly privately owned, Texas federal lands were purposely created in perpetually underpopulated regions, etc, etc..EXCERPT…”

  28. Judith A johnson says:

    we have been searching for affordable housing in the Adirondacks, I am a retired nurse of 23 years ,my son ,loves the snow, is studying web, design and, It support, we would love information on living and working there, we are also interested in a small pet type business, very anxious for a reply, as we need alot of help in this move ,we are from southern NJ

    • Boreas says:

      Anyone wanting to open a business here would be welcomed greatly. That being said, there are only a few communities in the Park that would be big enough to actually support a viable, niche, retail business. But those communities DO exist and are worth checking out. One potential issue would be the broadband internet available for your son. It isn’t ubiquitous up here, so that is something you need to check out when thinking about your eventual residence. But come on up and look around at the larger communities and you will likely find a spot to call your own!

  29. Judith A johnson says:

    after leaving my reply its obvious that I did not read all of the comments.and I apologize for sounding in plan word ignorant to all of the comments here, am I to take it that because we would love to live there , and because we are “urbanites ” that like our dollar general, Walmart, shop rites etc. that we would not be welcome, I would like to say that my son and I both do our due diligence when looking for places to live that would fit our needs ,we are not all looking for conveniences to be at our finger tips ,and are aware of the fact that planning is a must, we would never want to think that our dream of living in the snowy mountains of the ADK area would upset the locals, through a series of unfortunate events we found ourselves in a position to have to find a new home, and how a bad experience could actually turn into us maybe being able to live our dream, living in your beautiful mountains, but this kind of puts a bitter twist, thinking that we could possibly be unwelcome.

    • JB says:

      Judith, since I’m assuming that I was probably one of the biggest offenders on the anti-recruitment side of this old debate, I think that you are owed some context.

      If memory serves, the majority of the sentiments expressed here were against population recruitment, not the recruited populace. While the two are interrelated, there is a difference: one is a systemic governing policy, the other is an aggregate of private individuals. It would be hard to (in the spirit of being unwelcoming) individually fault each of the 100,000+ people who live within the Adirondack Park for the ethics or consequences of their individual choices–even though those choices, taken in aggregate, can exert very negative effects upon quality of life if not shaped by sane policy (e.g., Central Florida versus Switzerland).

      The problem is that the Adirondacks have been so politicized that sane economic policy–one that protects communities (and environment)–has thusfar been an unattainable goal. This is despite, but also because of, the fact that all lands within its borders are (in theory) protected by some of the strictest land-use regulations in the country. Personally, I think that this is what makes the area potentially one of the best places to live in the country. Unfortunately, it is also what makes it so exclusive.

      State and municipal governments have spent hundreds of millions on economic revitalization efforts over several decades–at points outright admitting that the overarching goal is to increase property values and tax revenue–possibly more than anywhere else in upstate NY. Consequently, property values have appreciated at various rates of between 2x and 5x of those of the surrounding region. Environmental problems (eg, water pollution from septic tanks) have emerged; and yet, many localities continue to spend more money on tourism and population recruitment and less on infrastructure and environment.

      But most of all–predictably–this has led to a housing crisis. Businesses in the booming tourism economy cannot house enough workers; mayoral elections now hinge on the issue. Several affordable housing projects are underway, but it will not be enough–they will fill quickly unless rigorous criteria are established for residency (i.e., workforce housing). And unfortunately, the demand for housing in the Adirondack Park will likely perpetually outstrip the supply for the foreseeable future: there is only so much available land to build on, and, owing to the harsh climate and rugged terrain, construction and maintenance costs in the Adirondacks are higher than elsewhere. All of this has led to an everyone-for-themselves situation. Houses that were selling for 100k several years ago now price in at 300k+, and affordable rentals are hard to come by.

      Even before the pandemic, I have found that people moving into the area generally have succeed opportunistically: by looking long and hard. The silving lining is that there are a lot more places on the market now since the pandemic, but they are reciprocally more expensive than ever before. I’d like to think that the Horatio Alger myth is true: with enough persistence, anything is possible. Probably not everything is possible in the Adirondacks anymore. But maybe with better policy, more can be possible.

      You will almost certainly be met with warm welcome spirits in the Adirondacks; the same cannot be said of the cold economic reality. Hopefully that can change if people are more informed about the nuance and complexity of the situation (i.e., more is not always better). The great journalists here have covered all of this in great detail. You have come to the right news organization to learn more.