Take a couple of Clifton Park subdivisions and spread the residents across a million acres of land and you’ve got a sense of Hamilton County, the most sparsely settled county east of the Mississippi.
Could marketing the low-key, misty-morning ambiance of the central Adirondacks help restore the declining population of places like Long Lake and Inlet?
The county just launched a new website, www.AdirondackGoodLife.com, hoping the answer is in the affirmative. There, the curious can learn the benefits of a commute that might include glimpses of wild turkey, deer — maybe even a moose.
Or perhaps the joy of not commuting.
Big thinkers have talked for years about North Country settlers being able to work from home electronically, if Internet access were better.
Now, the infrastructure to make that happen is on its way, with the start of work to bring broadband Internet to the county, at least hamlets like Indian Lake and Speculator.
A $472,000 grant awarded through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council is paying for upgrading the telecommunications switching stations in hamlets, though better Internet speeds at most homes must await a further $1.7 million in grant money, said Ann Melious, the county’s director of economic development and tourism.
“Phase I is a beginning, but this is a big, rural county,” Melious said. “This will open up speeds in the hubs right around the switching stations, but the project really is not complete without Phase II.”
The thinking is that access to broadband will help the central Adirondacks reverse not just decades of population loss, but a demographic that skews older, as young people leave and new families with children don’t settle — even if they love to hike, fish, snowmobile and boat in the wild and scenic mountains.
“Access to broadband will allow telecommuters and Web-based businesses to live and work where their hearts are,” Melious said. “The county is hoping to attract entrepreneurs and artisans who can transport their jobs with them.”
Another new website co-sponsored by the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce — www.AdirondacksTeleworks.com — is aimed specifically at helping people find telecommuting work.
No Jersey bears
As long as we’re covering the Adirondacks, let’s knock down the rumor about New Jersey black bears. Should you happen across Ursus americanus — whether in the Adirondacks or in a suburban backyard — it’s a homegrown beast, not one collected from suburban jeopardy in New Jersey and dumped up north like an unwanted tourist.
“We have more than enough nuisance bears of our own,” said David Winchell, at the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
True, there is a lot of buzz about bears this year. The population is up. Winchell said bears did very well food-wise in 2011, and then last winter was mild, and few died.
Fewer people hunted them, too. Finally, our rainless summer shriveled the wild berry crop, sending bears scavenging closer to orchards and bird feeders.