A newly published report identifies four dominant trends shaping life inside the Adirondack Park:
• The Park’s population is declining at a steadily increasing pace;
• The median age 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% to 3,392,000 acres;
• Park school enrollments, which had been declining at 2% per year since the start of the millennium, are now declining at nearly 2.5% annually.
The report, entitled “The Adirondack Park Regional Assessment 2014: Seeking Balance,” is a follow-up to the 2009 Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project (APRAP) report. The research team remained the same through both 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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+ 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% 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% (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% of the Adirondack Park land area, while state-owned conservation easements in perpetuity account for another 13% of the Park. Taken together, 58% of the area of the Park 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 Mr. 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 Blue Line school districts provided the most accurate count ever of K-12 students living inside the Park.
APRA 2014 can be read online at www.apra2014.com.