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Report Updates Demographic Trends In Adirondacks

APRAP 2014/Carl Heilman II

A new report has been issued on the major trends affecting life in and the economy of the Adirondack Park.

The Adirondack Park Regional Assessment report “Seeking Balance” is an update to a 2009 assessment. It identifies several major trends affecting the human population of the Adirondack Park. Among them are that state-owned lands and easements have increased by a million acres over 30 years. Fifty-eight percent of lands within the Blue Line are now restricted from development. School enrollments are declining at two-and-a half percent annually. The park’s population is declining at an increased pace with the median age increasing by four years over the past decade. Brad Dake chaired both the initial report and this update. He says there are three areas of significant change.  “Let’s just take the 12 county region, which is the area the Park is nestled into. It represents one-third of the area of the state of New York. About a million people and 128,000 live in the Park, about one-eighth of that number. And these people are experiencing a different demography and a different school enrollment issue than on the other side of the Blue Line. The inside of the Park is entirely different now and we can prove it. There is double the decline in school enrollments. We are rapidly aging. We are five years older  the moment you cross the Blue Line.”

The report was presented at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Research Consortium. Adirondack Association of Town and Villages President and Town of Wells Supervisor Brian Towers would like to have seen more than data and had potential solutions outlined.  “I would have been much more excited about it if it had been a report that said we did APRAP, whatever it was 5 years ago, 4 years ago, 6 years ago, whatever it is, these are the things that we noted. We haven’t seen any changes. In fact if anything there may be a continuation of some of these demographics and timelines that we were going to see and we predicted. But here’s the corrective actions or here’s what we think need to happen by the administration, by the legislature, by local government, whoever, by the Park Agency, to address some of these issues. And that’s really where I’m at on this.  It’s not that I’m upset with the report. It’s just not the  focus that I would have taken.”

Hamilton County is one of two counties located completely within the park. Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Farber says the conversation over issues has evolved over the past five years and hopes the data reflects better numbers in the next five years.  “Frankly things are changing right now and they’re changing for the better. Data really gives you a sense of where your concerns should be, what needs to be mitigated, what needs more focus. And while we’ve had some success on the jobs side and with some of these initiatives, I think there’s also been a big conversation just the last two days here at the Adirondack Research Consortium conference. And so I think the combination of having good data, good research, the constructive conversations that look for solutions and seek understanding is really the way that we’re going to have some success here.”

Dake, the report’s coordinator, believes the trends are a temporary phenomenon and he plans another update five years from now.  “What we’re guessing is that this is an adjustment that is being made. It is probably an adjustment largely due to lack of economic activity. We need manufacturing, which can exist in a park environment. We need companies that want to move up like they do out of Boston into New New Hampshire or a company that wants to be in wonderful location. But we’ve got to invite that and that’s the new challenge for the Park.”

More information on the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment 2014 report is available here.

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