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Adk. report: The park is aging, thinning

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - Updated: 10:26 AM


A report conducted by the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project has found trends within the blue line that are detrimental to the park's overall economic development, according to study chairman Brad Dake.

Dake said the report contains three basic areas of discussion based on trends that changed the most from the project's original 2009 report, including demography, land ownership and school enrollment.

The study found a steady decline in the park's population, a continuous decrease in school enrollment, an increase in median age, and a growth in state-owned land and public conservation easements -- by 50 percent since 1972.

"The park is aging," Dake said. "We pointed that out in 2009 and it is continuing to age at an alarming rate."

The study shows the population rate declining at a steady pace, and the median age will increase by four years this decade alone. In the early 1970s, the population was 115,000 and the median age was 31.

The population is projected to drop to that level again by 2030 and the median age will rise to 51.

"We are growing incredibly fast in the 60 to 60-plus age category and we are losing people in the zero to 30 category, whether they be children, college students or young adults," Dake said. "They are all fuzzing out. Most of that is largely due to lack of jobs."

According to the study, 58 percent of the park is restricted from future development due to state-owned forever-wild lands and state-owned conservation easements.

He said the park is one of the most highly regulated areas in the United States, which puts limitations on large-scale manufacturers moving into the area.

Dake said the park's present job opportunities are limited to tourism, government, education and prisons.

Because of the small job market, young people are forced to move out of the park, Dake said.

Although he said the study did not intend to make a correlation, there is an obvious relationship between the lack of young people and the decline in school enrollment, he said.

"You need a lot of jobs. You can see what is happening in Mayfield and Northville -- that is a microcosm of the whole park," Dake said.

Mayfield Central School District Board of Education President Ernest Clapper said he has noticed a decline in enrollment throughout the past several years and the district has had to make cuts to its budget as a result.

Specifically, the board made personnel cuts this year, which he said is the effect of a decreasing enrollment and government funding.

Clapper has been on the board for 10 years and worked at the district for 35 years prior to that.

"I know when I came to Mayfield it was certainly a lot more than what we have. There has been a general decline in the area," he said.

He said despite the cutbacks, the students are still receiving a high quality education, which is reflected in the high rank it received in the 2014 Albany Business Review.

Northville Mayor John Spaeth said the village is insulated and not positioned to grow geographically, adding the area has a difficult time sustaining new businesses.

He has witnessed an increase in the aging population and a decrease in school enrollment throughout the years. He is not sure if there is a correlation between a lack of businesses and those two trends.

Currently, Spaeth said the village and the town of Northampton are engaged in a pilot program facilitated through the Adirondack Park Agency's Economic Service Unit.

The unit is supposed to help both municipalities create a short- and long-term economic plan.

"Their main purpose is to help hamlet areas with economic improvement," Spaeth said. "They have recognized that a lot of their restrictions within the park have hurt the area."


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