Part-time Adirondack resident Sandi Lewis chats with Brian Mann and Paul Hai following a discussion on towns in the Park Sept. 30.
Photo by John Grybos.
continued Many thousands of homes have been built over the last few decades by second home owners, said Warren. Tourism is how park residents make a living.
“Let's not forget where our bread is buttered,” he said.
But half of the homes in the park go dark for two-thirds of the year, responded Mann. Despite expectations, he said, there's no cash economy around the tourists. Shopping options haven't increased and job opportunities haven't diversified, he said.
Instead, the park has been a major mecca for government spending, Mann said. Town and state jobs at schools, prisons and local government agencies fill in the gap that private industry hasn't been able to bridge, Mann said. But government budgets are shrinking.
“The great era of state spending is over,” Mann said.
A discussion about the changing picture in the park could have been leisurely, but with the recession and severe state spending cuts, the future of Adirondack towns needs to be discussed now, Mann said.
Folwell said her magazine is working on a story about employment in the park. Her staff's research has found that all but one of the top 10 park employers are health-care focused. International Paper is the exception.
Mann noted that many of those health-care jobs are at least partially subsidized through government programs, and may be vulnerable to cuts as well.
The best way to grow Adirondack towns and its economy is to start at home and teach youth to have pride in local resources, said Leilani Ulrich of the Common Ground Alliance and Adirondack Community Housing Trust.
On a recent visit to Finland, Ulrich dined with a host family. Their dining room was in the basement, paneled with wood. Not only did the family know where the wood came from, they knew where it was milled and took great pride in their local resources.