Westport 4/25/09

I don't know if you saw the headline in last week's paper, "Adirondackers getting poorer, older." Now, on the one hand it's good to know that I'm not the only one, but on the other hand, it's not a happy scenario. Our towns are getting smaller, our jobs and kids are leaving, our property values are skyrocketing owing to the purchase of second homes. The study paints a disheartening portrait of the future.

The call from Morehouse Supervisor Bill Farber was for more young people, better jobs, and more high-tech facilities, like broadband and cell phone service. But it's hard to see how that will happen as long as property values remain so high that no one can afford to live here year round.

That may be an exaggeration-but only just. Listen to this: "There are regions in the central part of the park where basically no residents can qualify for a mortgage because property values are so high and income is so low," Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed was quoted as saying.

Somehow, we need to get more people living here year round, especially young families. This is the idea behind the recent effort to create a database for alumni of Westport Central, for example, which will keep young people in touch with the community and hopefully tug on their heartstrings to move back one day.

As I've reported, the Housing Committee of the Future For Westport campaign has been exploring affordable and elderly housing options. They're holding a meeting in the Town Hall on Tuesday, April 28 at 5 p.m., when Patty Bashaw from the Essex County Office for the Aging will give a presentation on the county's demographics. It should be an enlightening discussion.

I also reported a couple of weeks ago on the excellent efforts of another Future for Westport group, the Heritage House committee, which has met several times this year. They will open the Heritage House Visitors Center on Memorial Day weekend, and they're looking for volunteers to help staff the new facility over the summer.

Nancy Decker, who chairs the committee, says that they hope to be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 4 p.m., and Sunday and Monday from 11 to 2 p.m.

If they get enough people, she said, they only need volunteers to take shifts one or two times a month, unless they would enjoy more time. There will be one or two short training sessions. If you have a little extra time this summer, this would a wonderful way to meet people and introduce them to our great community. Call Judy Bertsche at 962-8670 if you're interested.

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