Is this the Adirondack Park that you want?

David Mason presents The Sustainable Life concept in Long Lake (Photo: Mark Kurtz for NCPR)

At a meeting yesterday in Long Lake, two consultants — David Mason and Jim Herman from the town of Keene – presented a sort of grand vision for the future of the Adirondack Park.

They say the concept emerged not from their own imaginations but from a year-long series of workshops and seminars.

This, they say, was the consensus view of where community life inside the blue line should go over the next quarter century.

They call this model “the Sustainable Life” and in interviews yesterday in Long Lake, at the Common Ground Alliance Meeting, I found remarkably broad support across the political spectrum.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore the question of how realistic or achievable this vision might be.

But today, I’m interested for In Boxers’ views of the concept itself.  Is this the right concept? Is this the kind of Adirondacks you’d like to live in?

Read it through — really, give it a read — and then post your comments below:

The Sustainable Life

What made this Park different from the beginning is the life of the communities inside it.  It is not a ring-fenced Park with no one home.  Our cultural human values are just as important as our natural values.  A healthy diverse economy supports a healthy environment.  A sense of community is important here, living close to the land respectfully, not separately; living better without big growth.   The old divisions between natives and newcomers faded as the values they shared became more apparent.

The diversity of employment and the shortening of supply chains have made the Park more sustainable and resilient.  Local food and local renewable energy create a more closed-loop economy, keeping money in the Park.   Eco-friendly recreation and agro-tourism bring in people and income. The other new sector is telework – people working here, often at home in creative and professional jobs, but the employer is somewhere else – they export online work, thereby bringing money into the Park.  Overall these strategies reduce our population’s carbon footprint significantly. The Park is a model of sustainable community and draws in green businesses and a new generation of young people who find the vision attractive.

Widespread broadband, cell phone and global delivery services make it easy to live here and stay connected. In the modern mobile society, people move regularly.  The Park’s brain gain more than compensates for the departures, however. People who already know the Park move here, as friends join friends. Fine small, networked schools are a feature, not a problem.  Hamlet life has more walking and biking, more local stores, and, in general, healthier people. Inter-village bus transport is heavily used.  A greatly enriched arts scene thrives.  Construction focuses on reuse of existing structures and energy efficiency retrofits.

Most of the money spent on fossil fuel-based heat used to leave the Park.  With widespread installation of biomass heating systems in homes, institutions and municipal buildings and the sourcing of fuel from local forests, that money now stays here. Agricultural and private forestlands hold plenty of fuel stock resources that are sustainably harvested. The forests also yield enough saw logs that new small saw mills have popped up.  Community solar farms, retrofitted old hydro dams, home-scale wind, geo and solar thermal, and private solar all round out the renewable energy picture.  An upgraded smart grid supports distributed power production and local use.  It takes a lot of new production to make up for the old fossil fuel infrastructure, but people have become much more aware of the real cost of their energy use in the process and use less.

The local food industry in the Champlain and St Lawrence Valleys adds a lot to existing commercial farms.  Regional cooperatives allow scaling up and bring prices to an affordable level, often in year-round CSA arrangements.  Extended season farming fits well with the renewable energy efforts.  Products of these farms now reach northeast cites.  Most schools have gardens, teaching the next generation about healthy eating.

The State helped with more flexible regulation and investment in key infrastructure.  It avoided crashing small town economies by gradually reducing employment and at times shifting government jobs from prisons to information processing centers. Land use regulations have been updated to encourage clustering in expanded hamlets. DOT is more environmentally conscious, finding substitutes for road salt and changing culverts to improve wildlife migration. Climate change has reset priorities for environmental non-profits.  It is stressing the forest and more active management is helping it to adapt.  Invasives require clearing of dead trees even in the Forest Preserve.  The forest is changing gradually but we have kept it healthy.

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50 Comments on “Is this the Adirondack Park that you want?”

  1. dbw says:

    We sure need to try something else. Traditional economic development has failed us miserably. And with our own military predicting expensive and scarce fossil fuels, growth seems likes a distant dream at this point. During a recent getaway I read two books, both entitled THE END OF GROWTH, one by Richard Heinberg and the other by Canadian former investment banker Jeff Rubin. Both are recommended as they emphasize different ideas.

  2. I think expansion of broadband is huge. It can dramatically expand the potential business and employment diversity of the Park without a huge infrastructure footprint.

  3. Adding to my above comment, I live just outside the Blue Line. If I could telecommute and earn a decent living that way, as happens in many parts of the country, I would almost certainly move inside the Park to a place like Indian Lake.

  4. Peter Hahn says:

    The broadband part and the local farm/foods are very important for the future economy. Same with consolidation of administrations and services.

    The part I dont understand in terms of being practical is the paragraph on fossil fuel replacement. I heat my house with heating oil. Propane is now a lot cheaper (thanks to fracking) and maybe someday, when the heater wears out, I will be able to get a different system. I would love to be able to switch to something where the money stayed in the park. But wood pellets? solar? In order to be “sustainable” the system has to be economically viable – that is not more expensive than heating oil.

    The “real cost” has to be the cost to the consumer. If some of the other costs – environmental damage, earth warming, etc are not built into the price the consumer pays, then they dont really count. That presumably drives the climate change deniers delusions. Their bottom line is they dont want to pay those costs – they want to put them off on someone else. But in the mean time, it is not reasonable to expect many people to voluntarily spend more money on less damaging heating energy just because if everybody else did it the world would be better off.

  5. Dave Mason says:

    Biomass will start with larger buildings like schools. Some are already on biomass – Ausable Valley High School for example. The fuel savings are impressive, something like 70%, and that is what makes it work financially. 58% of Vermont schools have already switched to biomass. The technology for homes is coming along – it will be very much like heating with any other fuel but a lot cheaper to fuel. Tupper Lake will be the lucky place to get a numbers of homes done as a demo project.

    Experts say carbon issue is this: carbon from trees is already in the biosphere and it moves between air and trees regularly. It displaces fossil fuels, ancient sequestered carbon, which when dug up and burned adds to carbon in the biosphere.

    I’m told that for every 1 fuel oil related job lost, 10 biomass jobs are created. Good trade….life doesn’t frequently offer such deals. Then there are the benefits of cutting imports, not fighting wars over oil, etc.

    That said, we have seen the whole renewable energy industry rise and fall several times with fossil fuel prices, and that could happen again. It is not a sure thing, but it does have compelling $ arguments behind it now and that is what drives many people’s choices. The other motivation, for some, is the simple satisfaction on not paying the oil man, but paying a local guy instead. All-things-being-equal, I’ll go for the local option.

  6. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I would add South Lewis Central School in Turin, NY (Lewis County) as a district that recently added a biomass boiler to its HVAC system. There is also a district in Jefferson County that recently did the same thing (the name of the district escapes me at the moment). The point is we’re beginning to see a trend I believe.

  7. Dave says:

    This reads as a good starting point for a vision of the communities in the Adirondacks.

    But community life is only one half of the Adirondack equation. This does not address (by design?) a vision for the protected lands in the park. I am not sure you can have one vision, without the other. Well, maybe ideally you do have one vision, but includes both – this doesn’t.

    The forest preserve, for example, is mentioned only once… and it is to suggest we need to remove dead trees from it.

    So without knowing the corresponding vision for the “forever wild” part of the Adirondacks, I am not sure I can formulate an opinion – pro or con – about this statement.

  8. Dave Mason says:

    Folks, please take some time to go look at what was actually presented yesterday. There is considerably more to it than what is in the column, including quiet a few specifics about the Forest Preserve.

    Go to http://www.ADKfutures.org and you will find links to a PDF or a Powerpt file for the presentation.

  9. James says:

    Just a quick personal response to Peter’s earlier post about the biomass idea…

    I’m a telecommuter who moved to the park in 2007. We are a family of four. Almost immediately gas and heating oil prices skyrocketed to the point where my fuel oil provider quoted me $600 a month for budget billing ($7,200 annually). We very quickly had to come up with “plan b”.

    That summer I contacted Revolution Heating out of Malone and had Rick Chapman install a pellet/corn stove for around $2,500. For approximately $250 a ton for pellets and/or corn (we burn a mixture of the two), Rick delievers and helps me stack the pellets in our garage each Aug/Sept, and again in Feb if needed. Corn used to be much cheaper, but that has changed due to ethanol production and what not.

    My house is about 1,500 sq feet, and it usually takes me about 4 tons of pellets and a ton of corn to get through a winter, give or take a ton depending on the severity of the winter. I still use heating oil to run my upstairs baseboard unit set at about 60 degrees, and I still heat my water with heating oil. So I’m looking at about $1,500 annually in pellets/corn, plus another $2k to $3k in fuel oil. Needless to say, it’s still not cheap, but for a 100+-year-old house, it’s not terribly bad considering how cold our winters are…my savings year one alone more than paid for the new stove.

    As a side note, you can get pellets for less than I pay, but I don’t care how much cheaper pellets are elsewhere, Rick gets my business every time when it comes to pellets/corn. The guy is amazing. Even during 2008 when there was a shortage, he scoured the northeast to make sure his customers had pellets on demand, and delivered them right to your doorstep.

    All that said, running the pellet/corn stove is not as simple as turning a dial on my wall, granted, but it’s well worth the extra effort for the savings. There are also regassification systems that are even more efficient/cost effective that act as a furnace for one’s entire home that would still pay for itself in a matter of several years. If I had the space, I’d find a way to finance one.

    Full disclosure, I lean heavy toward the side of the environment, I believe global warming is real, I’m not a fan of fracking, and I live here for the amazing quality of life (communities, people, nature, etc.) not because it’s cheap (it definitely isn’t cheap). I would move, though it would kill me, rather than have a negative impact on the Park. The place is special, and I feel incredibly lucky to live here in spite of the challenges. All that said, I also believe that a biomass “facility” of some sort within the park, by which I mean a place that makes/packages pellets, has to be part of this plan, and I feel like it can be done in a way that completely supports and enhances the “life of the communities” within the Adirondack Park, while still promoting the environment. I also have to believe that the Northeast’s working forests, including those within the park, and other sources of biomass (corn, scrap wood, furniture scraps, etc) are plentiful enough to be used in a sustainable way, without changing land designations to the detriment of the park’s protections. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

    People keep saying biomass can’t compete with fossil fuels yet, but in my experience it already seems like it’s competing just fine. I can’t even imagine how well it might “compete” on a larger scale with some backing from plans like this one. I fully support this part of the plan…folks like Rick are already proving it’s possible.

  10. Dave says:

    Dave M.,

    I am fairly familiar with your website, and just read over the new presentation slides. This is all fascinating stuff. However, to my point above, I’m not seeing all that much that specifically addresses what the specific vision for the forest preserve would be under Endstate C (which is the clear winner of this effort, and whose full text is above)

    There is one slide (#33) with 5 bullet points about the Forest Preserve. Is that the extent of it? Am I missing the rest of it? Or is it safe to assume that unless a change is specifically mentioned (e.g. removing dead trees) then the vision for the forest preserve would be to that it remains as it is now?

  11. Pete Klein says:

    I was at the meeting yesterday and what impressed me the most was the sincerity of all involved.
    Perhaps the real common ground is the common bond of wanting to live and work here, and have as little impact upon the natural environment as possible.

  12. Dave Mason says:

    Dave:

    For Forest Preserve ideas see slides:
    17, 18, 24, 25, 27,and 33.

    I want to be clear that, Scenario C + Scenario B, each with limits, is where we came out, not C alone.

    With respect to the text for C alone, one of the features of it is that it doesn’t have much to do with the government at any level, and the Forest Preserve was more about a landscape/backdrop than anything we did much with other than attempt to help it adapt to climate change, control fires, etc. The Forest Preserve wasn’t a central feature of C.

    Pete: Too bad we didn’t meet while you were there. Maybe next time.

    The sincerity is real. I used a line about how cool it is to live in a Park, with a capital P. The people who live here largely love the Park. They want to live here w/o messing it up.

    I’d reverse that bumper sticker that says “It’s not a dam park, I live here….etc” to something like “I get to live here in the Park, how cool is that!” In most parks, the few people sleeping there get thrown out by the police at dawn.

  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Peter Hahn: “Propane is now a lot cheaper (thanks to fracking)”

    I don’t believe there is a direct cost relationship between propane (LPG) and natural gas which is the fuel derived from fracking. As I understand it the price of propane is linked to the price of oil or gasoline. Natural gas is a completely different product.

    There may be some indirect cost relationship in that natural gas prices are low and natural gas is now being used to refine oil but since our refining costs have dropped we have begun exporting refined products as well so it is hard to tell what the cost differentials may be.

  14. Snowflake says:

    You can save far more energy by super insulating your home than changing fuels. I spend less than $200 per month for heat, electric, hot water, etc. for 3000 sq. ft home with 15 to 20 yr old appliances. My house is all electric all the time. We have radiant heat both radiators and infloor. Invest in insulation and weatherization and you don’t need to stack fire wood or pellets. By the way we also have a lot of glass as well with no window coverings and a great room with cathedral ceilings and a large stone fireplace ( both are energy wasteful rather than beneficial) yet because of the insulation R value of the walls ( fiberglass and foam) and the ceiling ( stress skin panels) we are able to compensate. We do have a wood stove in our basement in case the power goes out but rarely use it otherwise.

  15. Brian Mann says:

    Hi Dave – Thanks for chiming in here. Very helpful. You write “I want to be clear that, Scenario C + Scenario B, each with limits, is where we came out, not C alone.”

    Could you explain this part a bit?

    Looking at the “All Workshop Ranking Results” it appears that Scenario C is the overwhelming favorite for desirability, while Scenario B climbs into the rankings in terms of achievability.

    How does those things connect – and how do you merge those concepts in developing an action plan?

    Brian, NCPR

  16. Peter Hahn says:

    Knuck – I had to check (since I admit didn’t know). Propane is a by-product of either natural gas production or oil refining. Propane is a component of “natural gas” that has to be removed before it can be put in the pipes for consumers. I assume the cost to consumers is a combination of supply (up due to fracking) and demand (up due to cost of heating oil), and the cost of raw materials (down due to cost of natural gas – from oversupply due to fracking). All in all, fracking probably plays a pretty big role in the relatively low price of propane. (not that I am a big fan of fracking) – (neither is the spell checker that seems to constantly try to change fracking to tracking).

  17. Dave Mason says:

    Brian:

    The Park needs both C, sustainable life and B the recreation and retirees scenario, to do well.

    The limit on the sustainable life scenario is the ability of the private forest to support biomass energy. We can’t harvest more than is grown….that is what makes it sustainable.

    The limit on B, recreation, is that we can’t trample the Forest Preserve. Use of it will have to be managed so as to allow someone 25 years from to to have the same experience as someone today. People don’t want the Park to be overrun by visitors, but they fully recognize visitors as vital to future support for the Park.

    I guess you could say C is largely about living here and B is largely about recreation and retired life here. Taken together we have a shot at a healthy economy w/o a lot a growth which is what people want.

    The renewable energy side of C is vulnerable to global energy price cycles. We seen interest in renewable energy rise to great heights in the past only to crash in a down cycle of oil prices.

    Brian- does that help communicate it better?

  18. Dave Mason says:

    One other idea is the C works better in some areas of the Park than B…not all areas are recreation havens.

    But in other areas, recreation is all the is to the economy. Hence the mix of C and B responds to needs across the whole Park

  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Thanks Peter, what I know is what my propane company tells me, and they have a horse in the race.

  20. Dave says:

    “The Forest Preserve wasn’t a central feature of C.”

    But it is a central feature of the Adirondack Park. So clearly you can’t have a vision for the Park that doesn’t address it. The clarification I’m digging for is, what becomes of the Forest Preserve under this C/B scenario?

    If it is not a central feature of those scenarios… does that imply that it remains exactly as it is now – except for the mentioned changes, such as attempts to manage for climate? Or are there other changes to it as well?

    A different way of getting at my question may be this: Scenario A (Wild Park) reads to me, in parts, like a description of the current Forest Preserve. It mentions article 14, leave-no-trace, APA and DEC preserving wild open space, etc etc. Since this scenario was not one of the ones selected by this process, and these values and ideas are not mentioned in the scenarios that were selected, what becomes of them?

    To be clear, I like what I am reading in both C and B. But it is hard for me, and I have to imagine others, to form an opinion without knowing exactly what these scenarios would mean in terms of how we approach the Forest Preserve. I suspect the answer to this might be obvious had I been at the presentation, but since I wasn’t, I’m hoping for clarification.

  21. Dave Mason says:

    Sure on slide 27, the first Emerging Strategy Slide, the second point says

    A: The Forest Preserve is the region’s foundation
    -Regulatory tweaks for the FP (e.g. Utility Land Bank, SLMP review)
    -Time to consider a program of land swaps to make it more contiguous
    - Science based forest management, not completely hands-off

    On slide 29, the 3 points are:
    -Understanding of the interdependence of our economy and our environment takes hold

    -The mixture of public and private land is our defining feature; it drives our diverse sustainable economy and increases our self-reliance

    -Balanced, slightly more flexible, regulation preserves this unique landscape, while enhancing the overall health of our communities

    on slide 30 last point says:
    - An integrated public/private recreation plan stitches together the whole Park experience

    On Slide 31 the second and third points are:
    - Use the forest and the land sustainably, avoiding over-harvesting or overuse for recreation
    - Leverage unique historical, cultural and natural features to maintain the unique character and appeal of each area

    And the specifically on slide 33, titled “Protect, Improve, the Forest Preserve we make these points:

    We maintain strong protections for the Forest Preserve and private land
    – Regulation encourages clustering using mechanisms like Transferrable Development Rights
    –State and environmental NGOs purchase additional easements keeping land productive and preserving open space
    – We manage the Forest Preserve using science-based stewardship and protect it against the threats of climate change and invasives
    – We address unintended constitutional limitations to help our communities
    –Utility land bank (e.g. under roadways), FP consolidation amendments

    We renew the State Land Master Plan
    –Use front-country and back-country concepts, planning for larger wilderness complexes instead of small UMPs
    –Take easement lands into consideration
    –Community groups, NGOs and lake owner associations and the State collaborate to protect water quality

    If you go here: http://adkfutures.org/ you can read the whole thing and it will make more sense.

  22. Pete Klein says:

    I’m going out on the limb a bit with an idea I have had for a long time.
    We humans like to believe we can control the horizontal and the vertical. Fortunately, not true.
    In the case of the Adirondacks, the elephant in the room is the Adirondacks. What I mean by that is the Adirondacks itself is the greatest protector of the Adirondacks. It is what it is because the soil isn’t so great for farming unless you are talking trees. The weather isn’t much of a help for farming either. Then you got the rocks. Then you got the wetlands. Then you have steep slopes. For some, you have the bugs to contend with.
    It’s all these natural negatives and more that help create the beauty of the place. But it is also all these negatives that keep most people away except for the warmer months.
    Many don’t realize it but the Adirondacks is one of the few places in the USA where the Canadian Shield comes south of the border. The other places are Michigan’s UP and north eastern Minnesota. Because of the location of the Adirondacks, it is greatly influenced by Hudson Bay when the wind comes out of the northwest. There is still some ice up on Hudson Bay. This plus an average central elevation of about 1,600 feet above sea level and you get a more northerly climate than you would expect for a place south of the 45th parallel.
    Now here is the good news.
    Most of the people who live here all year like the place for what it is. They think it is too hot when it gets much above 70 F. They would like the economy to be better than it is but they have no wish for this to become Saratoga. For these and other reasons, I believe the year-round residents will do whatever is needed to create the Sustainable scenario. And why should anyone doubt it when this is what they have been doing for over 100 years?

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    In the Lake George Mirror this week a story on a proposed 8 story hotel, Mayor Blais said the village should consider lifting it’s requirement that any building higher than 40 feet receive a variance. ” There are no vacant commercial lots in the Village so any new development has to be vertical.”

  24. Dave Mason says:

    Pete, you are onto something. Here is another possible reason the “sustainable life+tourism” idea rings true to people here….

    In the old days, not so long ago actually, many people here grew their own food or bought it locally. They used wood for heat. And there was guiding, hospitality work and caretaker work in season.

    Modernize those 3 things (local food, local energy and tourism), add internet based teleworking and, well, one can see why people are comfortable with this plan. C+B closely parallels the traditional life here. It values deeply rooted skills and customs.

    People want a better local economy, but that doesn’t mean they want a bigger economy. Better w/o bigger would be a prize winner here. And that is what calms downs environmental activists – better w/o bigger is music to their ears. So the challenge to work on together is to figure out how to do that:

    - How do we foster more farms? Many old farms have been left to grow into trees.
    - How do we foster a modern version of wood (biomass) heat. The new wood burners are hi-tech gasifiers, like a regular home furnace, and have nothing to do with old chunk wood stoves.
    - How do we build a diverse job base on broadband?
    - How do we improve health care that at least the aging boomer vacation home owners feel ok about spending more time here?

    Visitors – actually, we love showing this place to visitors, and seeing our home towns and streams and lakes evoke such strong reactions from them. We love be caretakers of the Park, and for them to come see it. If in visitors’ minds it is always July here, that’s ok. We don’t like it so much when our formerly secret fishing spots become widely known or the swimming hole becomes too crowded.

    The Forest Preserve? Residents and non-residents alike love it. Sometimes at the edges, where it bumps into modern life, and we do things like declare the dirt under a highway to be hallowed Forest Preserve ground, halting construction of sewers, fiber optic trunks, etc we have crazy legal fights as if they were death matches. (The legal fights are always about edge issues). But no one wants to trash it.

    The real product of this work is increasing trust. If we agree we want to get to the same end, then we can have rich discussions about how to do it. That is a big deal.

  25. mervel says:

    I just read it and found it very interesting and well done and I think a great process. I don’t live in the Park though, I live in SLC in the Seaway Valley. I didn’t see much in the way of addressing poverty in the slides, but maybe I missed it? One of the things we are struggling with is simply recognizing that we are one of the poorer areas of New York State, does that have an impact on these plans?

    I worry that in our rush to look for the future (which is a good thing), we will forget or worse simply ignore a whole segment of our population, because they don’t fit into these visions. We don’t have a homogeneous population in the Park you have really wealthy people and professionals, and we have a large segment of people who are on public assistance and barely scraping by.

  26. Dave Mason says:

    Yep, good observation Mervel. Poverty was deeply discussed in the workshops. It is widely viewed as the single largest threat to the Park. No one is willing to write off any towns, even those in the worst shape. The desire is to get the whole place on a better track…..the ideas of food, energy, etc open lots of opportunity for various classes of people, including the poor.

    Diversity of NYS demographics vs the Park was also talked about, sometimes uncomfortably, at every meeting. It is recognized as a huge issue. It we don’t capture the interest of the state increasingly diverse population, support for the Park will erode. The need for tourism is partly wrapped up in this. We like can’t just sit here, eat our own food, burn our own wood and play like the rest of the State doesn’t matter.

  27. mervel says:

    Thanks. I am glad these were discussed. Sounds like a great process to me really looking at these things realistically yet positively. Thanks for your work.

  28. Pete Klein says:

    Dave,
    Diversity, yes!
    One of the side benefits for Newcomb Central and its efforts to bring foreign students into the school has been exposing Newcomb students and residents to diverse religions and races.
    The students regard this as a positive.
    Maybe those promoting tourism should make an effort to try to attract the so called minorities to the Adirondacks.
    Maybe the DEC Rangers and Encon, plus the State Police could be a little more diverse?

  29. mervel says:

    Just one more quick point, socioeconomic diversity can also be a strength. We don’t have a two or three tier school choice in the North Country as in many urban areas, all of the kids rich and poor go to the same public schools (unless they are boarded) and their families all shop at the same grocery stores etc. Which to me is a strength and a positive unique aspect of our communities.

  30. Dave Mason says:

    Yes, we have socio-economic diversity. Newcomb’s foreign student program is a great, posiitve, model. A couple of school districts are starting foreign programs like Newcomb’s. Keene will have 6 foreign students next year from 6 different countries. Other schools are looking at similar programs, but with city kids from other parts of NYS instead of foreign students.

    The ranger school has a hard time attracting minorities, but they do try. I don’t know about the others.

    We need to get other types of people: asian, black, latin….all sorts of variety to visit here to enjoy the place. There is deep awareness of this issue to the future of the Park. Making happen isn’t straight forward.

  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It’s really great that David and Jim have undertaken this effort. It boggles my mind to think of the work they have put in on this. Is there some sort of ADK citizen medal that can be bestowed for efforts to benefit our future? If there isn’t there should be and these two should get one.

  32. mervel says:

    Franklin County has the highest percentage of Native Americans living in any county in NYS. We also have a significant largely Hispanic and largely invisible migrant work force already here. We do have local diversity we just need to recognize it and embrace it.

  33. Dave Mason says:

    Mervel-

    Interesting data. We should try, somehow, to make that a North Country theme, to recognize and embrace diversity. Any idea of the stats across the whole “North Country” (ANCA territory?) Or country by county?

  34. Larry says:

    Can someone please let me know who pays the tuition (and how much it is per student) for foreign students in Newcomb & Keene? Thanks.

  35. Zeke says:

    With the Park currently so dependent on a public job fueled economy it is difficult to imagine downsizing to any large extent and continue to make it a viable area for anyone except the wealthy.

  36. Larry says:

    I’m surprised that the Adirondacks aren’t populated exclusively by the “wealthy” already, given that this region was never more than marginally viable (economically) for most of the people who lived here. There ought to be some downsizing in the public sector as many can’t afford the taxes now. Tax and spend as it currently exists is not a recipe for economic viability and is driving away more people than it helps.

  37. Dave Mason says:

    The general assumption is that government will shrink at the town and county levels. It will be slow and will mean job losses. The tax cap will drive this.

    Foreign students pay 2 fees. One is for tuition and the other for room/board to the host family. I can’t recall at the moment what the total amounts to. But it isn’t about making money, it’s about diversity.

  38. Zeke says:

    Dave, was the feeling that the amount of infrastructure would be reduced and perhaps remaining infastructure would be improved? Could some roads revert to seasonal only.

  39. Larry says:

    Dave,
    It’s not about diversity either. It’s about boosting enrollment at schools that should probably be closed and consolidated. I still don’t know who pays the fees and how much they are. I doubt that third world students have that kind of money.

  40. Walker says:

    Larry, according to a Newcomb School District web page, their students have come from “Germany, France, China, Sweden, Brazil, Bangladesh, Israel, Switzerland, South Korea, Iraq, Suriname, Lebanon, Australia, Japan, Finland, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Armenia, Spain and Uruguay.”

    Plenty of first world countries there. And it’s a rare third world country that doesn’t have a significant number of very rich citizens– your basic banana republic setup.

    (A few more years of massive tax breaks for the rich and subsidies for big business, and that’s what the U.S. will look like.)

  41. Dave Mason says:

    Zeke-

    There is some infrastructure needed: broadband, water system rebuilds, waste water treatment are issues all over.

    Roads: Some roads that dead end in Forest Preserve have been shortened or DEC has left them to locals for repairs. Major road closures aren’t likely to get support

    Electric Grid: Upgrades needed to handle distributed power production like solar panels. Talk of moving power lines from back country to road sides gets brought up in the context of Forever Wild but isn’t ever likely to be implemented on a large scale. The road side view is valuable.

    The bigger idea is the boomer own a lot of 2nd homes here already. As they retire, they are likely to spend more time here, perhaps live here, thus using the existing infrastructure more.

  42. Dave Mason says:

    RE schools. The international students do add headcount at the high school level, true. The fees are higher than the incremental costs of having them around, true. But the primary driver behind these projects, which require a lot of community support, is to increase the quality of the school experience.

    FYI, these students can only stay at a school for 1 year. So each year involves an entirely new group of foreign students.

  43. Larry says:

    “But the primary driver behind these projects, which require a lot of community support, is to increase the quality of the school experience.”

    I’m sure the school experience is enhanced by the presence of foreign students but let’s not be naive; the “primary driver” is the preservation of school districts with dwindling enrollment and especially the jobs those districts provide. Nothing wrong if that’s what taxpayers want to spend their money on. I still don’t have an answer though: how much does it cost and who pays?

  44. Dave Mason says:

    The foreign students programs do not cost the taxpayer anything.

  45. Larry says:

    Must be a sensitive topic. Why won’t anyone say how much it costs and who pays for it? All I get for an answer is general commentary about how great the program is, how there’s no cost to taxpayers, how important diversity is, etc.

  46. Walker says:

    Larry, maybe none of us knows how much it costs. You’ve got the same ability to access Google as the rest of us– see if you can find it.

  47. Mervel says:

    I think Dave said above that they pay tuition and room and board.

    Plus you have the added benefit of headcount which can increase your state aid.

    But like I said earlier we have diversity present it is kind of a matter of thinking about that. We have the reservation we have some migrant labor, and we have the diversity brought by Fort Drum and the soldiers from all over the country.

    Do prisons and Sunmount fit into the vision anywhere?

  48. Walker says:

    “Plus you have the added benefit of headcount which can increase your state aid.”

    I was thinking about that– if it increases the school’s state aid, then of course there would be some cost to NY taxpayers. Of course, spread out over 20 million taxpayers, it wouldn’t amount to much. But presumably then students pay an amount that would cover what would normally be paid by local residents? Any ideas on what that would amount to?

  49. Larry says:

    According to the Newcomb CSD web site the annual cost per student is $9,000, split evenly between tuition and room and board. No mention of who pays if the student can’t. There is certainly a cost to the taxpayer whether direct or indirect. How much would taxpayers save if these scchols were consolidated?

  50. Walker says:

    Do they take international students who can’t pay? I would guess they don’t.

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