The Adirondack Park and surrounding communities need younger people to survive and one nonprofit organization focused on community development is offering ideas on how to attract those residents.
“Our demographics to a certain extent define our communities,” said Leslie Karasin, the Adirondack project manager for the Northern Forest Center.
The center, a nonprofit organization spread across four states looking to ensure viability of communities in the Northern Forest region, released Wednesday a list of strategies for communities in the Adirondack Park and surrounding communities to help them attract younger residents to the area.
According to the report the average age of residents in the region is outpacing the average age of the entire state and by 2030 one-third of Adirondack Park residents will be 60 or older.
“The crisis today is that there are simply not enough young people to sustain Adirondack communities,” the report states.
Karasin said many of the services residents rely on depend on younger people living and working in the communities. Her examples were “school districts that are wondering if they can keep schools open” or “communities where they’re not sure they can fulfill a volunteer fire department.”
Most school districts in the region have seen more than a 10% decline in students over the past decade—some have seen more than a 20% decline.
But younger people are looking for certain attributes in communities to entice them to make the move. “The things themselves are not surprising,” Karasin said.
- Some of those attributes include:
- Broadband access
- Affordable, quality and a variety of housing
- Jobs that can lead to careers
- A sense of vibrancy, such as a strong downtown area
- Arts and entertainment options
Karasin said towns should take a step back and look at what their community needs are and how they plan to address those needs. She said the center will work with communities along the way using tools like affinity groups to determine what the weaknesses and strengths of a community are and what actions can be taken to promote the strengths or fix the weaknesses. She said they will also try to help implement any solutions communities come up with.
Fulton County is working on a variety of projects to attract younger people to the area, but it also already has a number of strengths, said Ron Peters, the president and CEO of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth. Peters said the county is getting ready to launch a jobs website where people can see what jobs are available in the area and that many companies, like Benjamin Moore, are expanding.
“There is room to start out at an entry level and work your way up,” he said.
Peters also said younger people have lots of options for affordable housing because the county is ideally located between the Mohawk and Capital Regions.
“You can afford a house here,” he said.
And if that’s not what someone is looking for, he said there are fairly priced rental units too.
The county is also located close enough to drive 30 minutes to Saratoga County or 40 minutes to Albany, both of which offer a variety of entertainment and arts options.
Peters said the county is working to expand its brewery trail “so people know we have a fun active area.”
Then there’s the Great Sacandaga Lake, he said.
“It’s sort of a secret,” he said. “I don’t think people realize what we have up here.”