What’s growing? Where should we invest? The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) and regional partners set out to answer these and other questions facing North Country communities by completing an economic analysis of the entire 14-county Adirondack North Country region.
One refrain I have heard from Adirondack leaders through the years is that declining school enrollments across the Adirondacks, with particular emphasis on the closures of the Piseco School and Lake Clear School, show the overall decline of the Adirondacks as a viable social and economic region. Blaming environmental policies immediately follows these statements. I have always argued back that there are many factors that affect school enrollment levels and that the changes afoot in the Adirondacks are far less severe than the changes that are transforming vast portions of Rural America. » Continue Reading.
One of the most striking maps coming out of the 2016 Presidential election is the red-blue county map. Despite Clinton winning the popular vote by 3 million, the county map shows a sea of red across the U.S. as Trump won 2,632 counties and the country is flecked with blue dots in the interior and on the coasts where Hillary Clinton won 489 counties. In our part of New York, Trump swept everything north of the Mohawk River with the lone exception of Clinton County. He won Lewis, Hamilton, Fulton, and Herkimer counties by wide margins. Having poured over maps of Rural and Urban America in the last few years, the interesting thing to me is that the 2016 Trump victory map tracks closely to the rural-urban divide in the U.S. » Continue Reading.
The US Census 2017 population estimates are out and 11 of the 12 Adirondack counties lost population. These estimates are based on samples and are not the comprehensive decennial censuses based on extensive surveys and counts. The next one is 2020. Nevertheless, the estimates are useful and in 2017 they show that 11 Adirondack counties are estimated to have lost a total of 16,263 people. These 11 counties started 2010 with a combined population of around 800,000 and dropped 16,000 to 784,000.
When we add Saratoga County to the mix of Adirondack counties, the results change somewhat. Saratoga was the only one of the 12 Adirondack counties projected to have grown, jumping by over 9,000, from 220,000 to 229,000 in those years. When we look at the total population of the 12 Adirondack counties, we see a net drop of over 6,000, from 1.02 million to 1.014 million. » Continue Reading.
In 2015, Old Forge native Tyler Socash decided to take the money he had been saving for a car and spend it on something more experiential: three long-distance hiking trips.
Starting in August, he ended up hiking seven thousand miles as he finished the Pacific Crest Trail, Te-araroa (Long Pathway) in New Zealand, and the Appalachian Trail. After the yearlong trip, the thirty-year-old came home to the Adirondacks, where he returned to a former employer, the Adirondack Mountain Club, as a wilderness trip leader. » Continue Reading.
At the conference on Adirondack demographics recently held in Albany (described last week by Pete Nelson), there were some familiar faces and some familiar facts. And there were also some familiar but unsupportable conclusions.
The speakers reminded us of two main demographic trends: First, the average age in Adirondack towns is going up. And second, the number of school-aged children in Adirondack school districts is declining. These numbers are not in dispute. They are derived from unimpeachable research conducted by the Center for Applied Demographics at Cornell University (CAD). They suggest a serious challenge to the welfare of our friends and neighbors who live and work in Adirondack towns. » Continue Reading.
I have always felt that there were three prevailing dispositions towards statistics: professional – by those who know how to use statistics and do so legitimately; political – by those who use (or typically misuse) them for propaganda; and cynics. Cynics have an attitude toward statistics best captured by the aphorism popularized by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” » Continue Reading.
Peter Bauer recently ran a post reviewing a report that college-educated young people are leaving rural areas in droves for “close-in” living in cities where economic opportunities, cultural amenities and entertainment options far exceed their native communities. Bauer described this as a subset of a larger dynamic, namely the decades-long global trend toward urbanization. At the conclusion of the article he asked leaders of the Park to “understand these dynamics and to develop strategies for ways to tap into these larger trends.”
Adirondack leaders and residents alike have been aware of these trends for a long time, living both population decline and gentrification of their communities as personal experiences. But while the fact of these changes is unquestionable, Bauer is right in his call: the full dynamics are not that well understood here in the Park. » Continue Reading.
Recent pieces (here and here) in the Adirondack Almanack stressed the importance of placing the Adirondack Park experience and condition in a national context, especially with the rest of rural America. National context is important when trying to ascertain trends in Adirondack Park demographics, economics or land use.
This past weekend, The New York Times data-crunching blog The Upshot published an interactive map that ranked the 3,135 counties in the U.S. by how hard or easy these places are to live. The indicators they chose to create this ease or hardship ranking were median income, unemployment, percent of population with a college degree, disability rate, obesity and life expectancy. The Upshot said these metrics were selected due to the availability of county level data across the U.S., which provided a profile of economic and public health conditions. Disability was not used as a health indicator, but as a data point for the non-working adult population, which was used in conjunction with unemployment. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project (APRAP) recently came out with a 5-year Update. The APRAP Update provides new data on land protection in the Adirondacks, the Park’s demographics, school district enrollments, and the delivery of emergency services in local communities. The main theme of the APRAP Update is that the Adirondack Park is out of balance. This lack of balance is depicted by a 2-page cartoon where an upended seesaw has flung children and loggers out of the Park, while waitresses, birdwatchers, EMS staff, and retirees, among others, stand firmly on the grounded end of the seesaw.
The APRAP Update has some useful information, but continues to try and make the case that the root of the problems and challenges facing the Adirondack Park are the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act and the growth of the Forest Preserve. We are asked to assume, because the Park is growing and the population is aging and shrinking, that the former causes the latter. (No note is made of the fact that the population grew along with the Park for most of the post WWII period.) Thus, the APRAP project continues to supply the intellectual fodder for the blame-the-park lobby. » Continue Reading.
In 2009, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages sponsored a report, the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project (APRAP), full of important, often-distressing data on the demographics of all 103 towns and villages in the Park. In May of 2014, a five-year update was released, with a spurious—if not downright deceptive—explanation for why our towns are in trouble.
Let’s get the problems on the table first, for they are indeed real and pressing. The overall population of the Park is declining. More important, as the report correctly observes, the population of young families with children is declining even more rapidly than is the overall population, while the median age is rising (and rising faster than the state average).
Because the number of young families with children is declining, school populations are falling off to the point where some districts may not be viable. » Continue Reading.
One persistent myth in the Adirondack Park population debate is that environmental regulations and the Forest Preserve drive young people out of the Adirondack Park. In certain quarters this is considered gospel in the debate over the future of the Adirondack Park.
The reality is that this myth is a myth.
A great tool is being offered by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who put together a fascinating interactive website with U.S. population emigration data 1950-2010. It lets one explore various population migration trends across the U.S. post World War II. The UW-Madison site helps us in the Adirondacks see how our demographic trends track closely to the rest of rural America.
Population decline in rural America has been driven by the loss of the rural manufacturing base that could not compete with cheap overseas costs. It’s been driven by the vast mechanization and contraction of the farm and logging work forces. For example, Iowa State University reports the number of hog farmers in Iowa dropped from 65,000 in 1980 to 10,000 in 2002, while the number of hogs per farm increased from 200 to 1,400. It’s been driven by the massive growth of online shopping and services (remember in the days before NetFlix when there were video stores in several Park communities). Government austerity programs don’t help rural areas either as public sector employment is always higher in rural areas as a total percentage of the work force. » Continue Reading.
Three new interesting data points have recently come out from the US Census and the NYS Department of Education that provide a state and national context for the Adirondack population debate. In previous posts I have argued that we need to look at Adirondack Park population trends against a backdrop of state and national rural demographic trends, especially those impacting rural America. Others disagree and argue that Adirondack Park population trends are immune to national forces and trends, but rather are shaped by the distinct and negative impacts of the Forest Preserve and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act regional land use controls.
I think that the blame-the-Park lobby could benefit from a hard look at state and national trends because a better understanding of what rural areas in the US are facing will help develop a long-term population retention and recruitment strategy that might work for the Adirondack Park. The controversial APRAP report was notably devoid of larger state and national trends in its population analysis.
I believe that the Park’s modest population decreases, which are much less than many other rural areas in the US, have been eased by the protected landscape of the Adirondacks, which supports active tourist-small-business-public sector economies. » Continue Reading.
Dave Mason and Jim Herman have received a lot of commendations for their Adirondack Futures project. It’s high time, the Adirondack Futures project tells us, for a grassroots, bottom-up, inclusive planning process that is professionally facilitated to shape a plan for a new and positive direction for the Adirondack Park.
Mason and Herman have met with several hundred people about the future of the Adirondacks and created a handful of scenarios for what the future may hold 25 years down the road in 2038. They have presented these plans to government at all levels and many groups throughout the Adirondacks. They are now actively implementing this work through a half dozen work teams. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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