WARRENSBURG - Adirondack residents on the average are relatively poor, aging and undereducated and the area is hemorrhaging local youth, according to the findings of the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project, released this week by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages.
These trends, plus low prevailing wages, limited job opportunities and expensive housing, are threatening the way of life here, local officials said this week.
"School enrollments in the park have decreased 329 students annually throughout the current decade," The Assessment Project report states. "This is the equivalent of the loss of one Adirondack school district every 19 months."
Local officials are calling the release of the 120-page report as a milestone event in Adirondack history which will define debate and likely influence policy decisions in the Park for generations to come.
"It's the basis for future Adirondack policy," Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe said June 9. "We tried to just focus on the facts and to draw as few conclusions as possible."
Low wages, high housing costs burden residents
According to the Assessment report, the average median household income in the Adirondack Park is approximately $43,000 annually - about $8,000 below the national average. Meanwhile, housing prices are skyrocketing in many tourist-oriented communities, resulting in large portions of populations in the Park's center who are unable to own homes through no fault of their own.
Roughly 40 percent of private Adirondack parcels are owned by people with addresses outside of the Park, with housing prices in most Adirondack communities being dictated by second homeowners. For instance, nearly 70 percent of home sales in Hamilton County are to second-home buyers from outside the area.
The largest employers in the Adirondacks are correctional facilities, with public schools and municipal highway departments running close behind. Over 44 percent of Adirondack residents are employed in the public sector.