Adirondack Park population declines, average age increases, new report shows
Saturday, May 17, 2014 - 8:28 am

A new report identifies four trends including continued population decline that are shaping life inside the Adirondack Park, including the northwest section of the park in St. Lawrence County.

The report, entitled "The Adirondack Park Regional Assessment 2014: Seeking Balance," is a follow-up to the 2009 Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project report.

The four trends identified are:

• The park's population is declining at a steadily increasing pace

• The median age of people in the park is eight years older than in the rest of New York State and, more strikingly, five years older than in the communities outside the park's boundary in the same 12-county area

• State-owned lands and public conservation easements have grown by one million acres in the past 30 years. Since 1972, these protected lands have grown by 50 percent, to 3,392,000 acres

• Enrollments at schools in the park, which had been declining at 2 percent per year since the start of the millennium, are now declining at nearly 2.5 percent a year.

The research team remained the same through both the 2009 and 2014 studies, including Brad Dake, Chairman of the APRAP study, and a team of community planning experts from The LA Group of Saratoga Springs. Overseeing the report, along with Dake, were Town of Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board; and former Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner Deanne Rehm.

"Our goal is quite simple: to bring new information to the 140-year discussion about the preservation of the Park and the communities therein," said Dake.

Among APRA 2014's many findings:

• The park's population is declining at a steadily increasing 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 (a loss of 17,000 or more residents) and the median age will rise to 51.

• From 2000 to 2030, the number of park residents younger than age 30 is projected to decline by an average of 14 percent each decade. By 2030, more than one-third of the park residents will be over the age of 60.

• From 2003 to 2013, the number of public school students living inside the Adirondack Park dropped by 21 percent, an average of 422 students per year, twice the rate of decline in communities outside the park's boundary in the same 12-county area.

• State-owned forever-wild lands now account for 45 percent of Adirondack Park land area, while state-owned conservation easements in perpetuity account for another 13 percent of the park – all together, 58 percent of the area is restricted from future development. Each of these percentages is the highest in the park's history.

• Over the past 16 years, New York State has acquired conservation easements on private lands in the park at a pace of 63 square miles annually. Over the past 25 years, these acquisitions have exceeded the size of Yosemite National Park.

"Historically, analyses of population and demographic trends in the Adirondacks have relied on data from the 12 North Country counties. But only two of those counties are wholly within the Adirondack Park, while 10 counties straddle the park boundary," said Dake. "Data from communities outside the park's boundaries have often produced a skewed picture of what's happening inside the Blue Line. APRA 2014 took unprecedented steps to look specifically at what's happening inside the park and we found the picture to be quite different than what's happening outside in the same 12-county area."

Sources for APRA 2014 include the Program for Applied Demographics at Cornell University, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Department of Education and several other state agencies.

In addition, an extensive survey of school districts provided the most accurate count ever of K-12 students living inside the park.

APRA 2014 can be read online or downloaded at www.apra2014.com.