How can we keep more young people in the North Country?

Keeping young people like Tim Morse in the North Country could be the region's biggest challenge over the next thirty years (Photo provided)

Yesterday NCPR began its series on young people in the North Country by talking with Becca Johnson, a St. Lawrence County native who has made her life in the orbit of New York City.

And here on the In Box, we talked about what you’re seeing in your corner of our region:  Is the flight of young people hollowing out your community?  Are you holding your own?  Seeing a little renaissance?

Today, we talk with Tim Morse, a 26-year-old who grew up in Copenhagen, near Watertown, who has chosen to come home to the North Country to make a life and a career here.

Tim points to the outdoor life and the closeness of family, along with the availability of a good job, as strong draws bringing him back.

So here’s my question for In Boxers today:  What do you think can be done in your community to make it more inviting for people like Tim to stay, or return after a time out in the wider world?

Can or should local governments do more to foster a youth culture?

Particularly in communities that have some resources that attract young people (colleges, the Fort Drum Army base, hiking and camping destinations) are we doing enough to welcome young people and to encourage them to consider our region as more than just a stopover point?

And I’d also love to hear from young people, both those reading the In Box outside the region, and those who are making a living here:  What would make your life better, more inviting, more secure?

Is it as nuts-and-bolts as good jobs and affordable housing?  Or are you more interested in the fun, inviting stuff, like a better nightlife, more places to hang out and meet friends?

If you’re still skeptical that this is a meaningful issue, take a few minutes to play with these projection charts put together by Cornell University.  You can actually see a graphic representation of the aging North Country population.

Comments, as always, welcome.

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88 Comments on “How can we keep more young people in the North Country?”

  1. Mark Scarlett says:


    I don’t see anything in the Cornell study that tells me anything more than this: people are living longer and they are having smaller families, ergo the population is aging and there is a smaller proportion of younger people. Otherwise, as others have observed, it is in the nature of young people to move on and make their own way in the world, as ours did, and as we did ourselves. Life is too short to spend time hand-wringing over things we cannot and, indeed, do not want to change.

    As young people, in our 20’s, we left good, professional jobs in the city to move here, without a job or other prospects, because this part of the North Country was where we preferred to live and start a family. We lived modestly and within our means with whatever work we could find, including construction and farm labor, as you noted, but also over time found meaningful and rewarding careers in not-for-profit work that allowed us to provide well for our children (including running water and telephone :-) and good college educations.

    We have made a good life for ourselves here because we love this place and the circle of friends and community that we have found here; and we have been willing to commit time and energy to the charitable and civic activities that we believe help make this an even better place. The values that we have passed on to our children are evidenced by their doing likewise in the places they have chosen to live. We appreciate that others may not be so happy with their lives here. It only works if you love the place. We have been extraordinarily blessed.

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  2. zeke says:

    Hey Brian, could you define young people for me?

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  3. Brian Mann says:

    Zeke –

    I think it’s a fuzzy concept, but let’s say for same of argument people from high school graduation through their early forties — the age range where people start families, start businesses, build careers, etc.

    As others have pointed out, we’re doing pretty well with older folks, particularly retirees, who are making the North Country a part of their life plan. That’s great. But it doesn’t translate into a lot of entrepreneurial activity, or a lot of babies being born, or a lot of kids in schools.

    So, to some up: I’d say we’re talking about folks age 18 through age 40 or 45.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  4. I think it’s difficult. Young people tend to like things that are lively and vibrant and diverse. In the Adirondacks, established residents tend to like things quiet and are suspicious of those who are different and are loathe for things to change. I’m not sure how you reconcile this.

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  5. BTW-I don’t mean to imply there’s something wrong with those residents who like things quiet. I’m young(er) and I certainly wish my town were a bit quieter. I just also realize that I’m an anomaly among younger people.

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  6. Brian Mann says:

    Hi Mark –

    You may be absolutely correct about the reasons for the decline of young people in the North Country.

    Smaller families, the lack of Hispanic immigration, young people going in search of a different way of life. All those are factors.

    But I don’t think your comment grapples with the implications.

    St. Lawrence County is expected to lose about ten percent of its population over the next thirty years.

    A whopping 75% of that decline occurs among people under the age of 45.

    If Cornell’s numbers are right, St. Lawrence (which is actually faring a lot better than some other counties in the region ) will lose about 9,000 young people over that period.

    Does it matter than in average years the number of young people — in that one corner of the North Country — will decline by about 300?

    Will that reshape education, the economy, the cultural life? I think it’s fair to say that the impacts could be profound.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  7. john says:

    I absolutely agree with Mark Scarlett. This is a generational thing. Many of the retirees that Brian speaks of came here from somewhere else during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as part of the back-to-the-land movement of the baby-boom generation. I came here to attend college and never left. I came from what had been a rural mid-state community that had evolved into suburbia throughout my childhood and teen years. When I got here, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I taught in a public school for 33 years. Most of my former students live in far-flung and much more cosmopolitan places now. In my many conversations with them I can’t recall even one of them saying that they wanted to come back here. This is a nation-wide trend here and in Canada. There is very little we can do to reverse that trend. If it was only happening here, there might be reason to think that it is something we are doing wrong, but that is just factually not the case. Sadly, politicians keep trying to exploit this trend as a sales pitch for their ‘silver-bullet’, mega-billion dollar schemes.

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  8. MSLK says:

    I absolutely agree with Mark Scarlett – “It only works if you love the place.”

    So it depends on the “young” person. I grew up in the Adirondacks, went to college in Canton, and settled back in the Adirondacks after a couple years in the Hudson Valley (beautiful, but not the same as the Adirondacks). I decided that I would be more likely to find a job in the Adirondacks if I actually lived in the Adirondacks again, so I waited tables and did other tourism/hospitality related work for about two years before landing a job outside of the tourism/hospitality industry, with regular hours and health benefits. It took a lot of patience, many job applications, frustration, and perseverance to find a job that used some of my college education, and paid enough to pay the bills.

    I find that most of my young friends (in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s) live in the Adirondacks intentionally and are quite creative in their job and career choices.

    Aside from jobs, I think the next most important thing is housing – connecting young people with affordable purchases.

    I think that if you’re more interested in night clubs, fashion, and material things, the Adirondacks probably is not the right place to live.

    However, if you like the arts Saranac Lake is a great place to live and meet other young people who live intentionally in the Adirondacks.

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  9. Pete Klein says:

    Thanks for the 45 age as being included in young people because I moved here with my family at 45.
    Two of my kids completed high school here and both are still here. My oldest entered college that year at Buff State and now lives in Buffalo.
    Why did I move here? For all the reasons most people don’t want to live here. Even though I was born and raised in Detroit, I’ve always loved the North Country, beginning with northern Michigan. I just happen to like cold, snow, mountains, lakes and the forest. I also love cities because in their own way they are wild. What I hate are suburbs. I regard them as the worst of the country and the city.
    After all is said and done, the worst part about an area like this for those under 30 or not yet married is the few choices when it comes to a sex life. Cities will always beat out an area like this when it comes to sexual choices. And it doesn’t help out with this being a very conservative area.

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  10. Anita says:

    For those of us who have raised our millennial children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it is highly unlikely that we will see our kids come back to the North Country once they finish their educations. It’s not that there is no work available in STEM in our region, but there aren’t very many jobs requiring such skills. This comes from a mom whose child is working on a PhD in statistics. She won’t be back, except to visit, unless a position opens up someday at a local university and she decides to pursue a career in academia rather than working for industry.

    That’s just the situation in one little family. I think Mark Scarlett summarizes the situation beautifully on the bigger scale. Our region will be inevitably be affected by large demographic forces, and these forces will affect other similar regions in the same way. Brian, you might not like the implications, but there will be a lot of other regions that have the same long term issues. I hope we can learn from each other to maintain quality of life and support networks as rural populations continue to dwindle.

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  11. mervel says:

    St. Lawrence County has had a long term structural problem with high unemployment and high rates of poverty. Well before the great recession these were long term issues. In general young people are not going to find opportunity in that sort of environment, regardless of how youth friendly it is.

    You have to have job growth, the industries that many young people worked in; were in general related to government, either prisons, schools or social services. The Universities are a bright spot, but I don’t see them adding new professional jobs at this point and those government jobs are all in decline.

    I think we could look at making it much easier to start new businesses or look at nich areas such as micro-farming, etc.

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  12. MSLK says:

    I should also add that the job market for jobs outside the tourism/hospitality industry is extremely competitive as many young people working in that industry have college degrees and are biding their time for a job in the Adirondacks that utilizes their college degree.

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  13. Brian Mann says:

    Anita –

    I think you’re reading this right: I don’t like the implications, and I think at the very least it’s important to talk about what they mean.

    Even if we accept this demographic change, it will mean making dramatic alterations in the fabric of North Country life.

    Smart communities will plan for those, as will smart institutions. But I like to think that some smart communities will also find ways to push back, reinventing themselves in ways that do attract some young people again.

    The back to the land movement of the 70s has been cited a couple of times. Is there something we can do to foster something like that again?

    –Brian, NCPR

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  14. John Warren says:

    It’s good to know I’m still, for a few months anyway, considered a young person.

    The Adirondack Almanack has a new contributor this week. One of Brian Mann’s ‘endangered species’ from Hamilton County – you better start reading her stuff before she disappears into thin air.

    The real question is – will the 40-year old arguments of Brian Mann, Will Doolittle, and Fred Monroe et al, be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Will they drive the vibrancy out of our communities by constantly telling young people their hometowns have nothing to offer them?

    “I think it’s fair to say that the impacts could be profound.”

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  15. MSLK says:

    I think that a renewed back to the land movement is taking hold in the North Country, but it’s hard to find affordable land that isn’t too far from jobs, at least in the Tri-Lakes area.

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  16. Pete Klein says:

    Brian, I don’t see the “back to the land of the 70’s” taking place or being any sort of a solution because most who went back to the land gave up on it and turned into yuppies – the ultimate fate of most hippies!

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  17. Brian Mann says:

    John –

    You really think Hamilton County’s population trends are being caused by people asking substantive questions about the future of our rural towns — and sparking conversations about possible solutions?

    I think that’s goofy.

    You have consistently rejected other people’s data about the future of Hamilton County.

    Do you also reject Cornell’s projections that by 2040 the population there will drop dramatically — to levels not seen since the mid 1800s?

    If they’re right, the population of people in Hamilton County will also age dramatically.

    Folks under 40 will be outnumbered 2-to-1 by people over the age of sixty.

    You suggest repeatedly that this is all just chicken little stuff. So let me pose a simple, practical question:

    How can a population of 1,400 working-age adults (again, I’m using Cornell’s figures) sustain a county government, along with nine towns, two hamlets and seven school districts, along with all the basic services that Hamilton County’s people need?

    If they can’t, then don’t you think it’s time we started talking about the implications of that?

    –Brian, NCPR

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  18. laurie says:

    I fit into Brian’s definition of “young” and am looking at the issue from the outside. I’ve visited the Adirondacks in each of my 37 years and dream of the day I can make the north country my permanent home. For me, it comes down to three things: work, healthcare and family.

    Regarding family: My parents are here in northern NJ and both have health issues that will result in them needing more and more assistance in the coming years. Maybe 10 years ago I could have left, but right now I can’t.

    Work and healthcare go hand-on-hand. I watch my parents, who own their own business, struggle to keep it running despite their failing health, just so they can afford health insurance and pay for their various treatments and medications. They worked their whole lives to send two kids to college and pay off the house my dad built himself, only to find themselves needing to remortgage it years later just to keep the business afloat and pay for health insurance and medical bills. And that was after they burned through the modest retirement savings they’d put together.

    I’m not afraid of hard work, long hours, or taking odd jobs to make ends meet, but the thought of life without health insurance scares the crap out of me. I want the security of a job that provides that safety net, because I’ve see what happens when you don’t have it and your body starts to fail you. Outside of government, there aren’t a whole lot of those kinds of jobs in the north country.

    And so my husband and I keep our jobs in NJ, live in a modest home here, and after scraping enough pennies together to buy a little camp in the southern ADKs, escape there whenever we can. Each time we drive up, we fantasize about the time we won’t have to drive back. But each time reality forces us to climb back in the car, get back on the Northway, and drive south to the (relative) security of our jobs.

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  19. zeke says:

    We are participating in a real life game of SIMMS. So, what do people who live in the dacks do? What percentage of people; work in the private sector, the public sector, are retired? Of the retired are they residents of NYS or some other state? And then Why? Next, what laws could be changed to make people behave differently for the benefit of the dacks.

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  20. Kathy says:

    Can or should local governments do more to foster a youth culture?

    Yes. The buck stops with them if they prevent businesses or industry from coming to their town. If they don’t change with the times to some degree, they will lose people. It’s that simple.

    I wonder if the seniors have been included in this projection? Some stay, some don’t. The latter moves closer to family or heads to the Sunshine State.

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  21. Matthew says:

    How about jobs whose salaries are high enough to pay off the massive student loan debts that we have been ASKED to take on?

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  22. Ken Hall says:

    Brian Mann says: “the age range where people start families, start businesses, build careers, etc.”

    To me this philosophy epitomizes the conundrum which mankind steadfastly refuses to face, to wit, exponential, human, population increase. As I am wont to expound on this critical problem ad nauseam I suggest anyone with a modicum of interest take a look at University of Colorado, my Alma matter, Professor Emeritus in Nuclear Physics Albert A. Bartlett’s blog.

    As many North Country residents, if memory serves me including Brian Mann, have pointed out the majority of the economic drivers up here arise outside the area. I believe I have listened to radio articles on NCPR which espoused the “fact” that for every tax dollar which leaves the area two tax dollars flow in.

    The North Country is/has been over populated, not under populated, and the remaining natural resources of the area are incapable of supporting its’ current population density therefore humans move out; makes sense to me. How many of the areas industries are subsidized? Dairy farms; yup, Aluminum manufacturing; yup, Defense; yup, Higher Education; yup, , ,. leading to played out industries mining and lumbering. Small scale lumbering and firewood production does exist but not at a level which will support significant numbers of humans and HEAP even subsidizes firewood.

    My most unpopular prescription; “educate humans about the inadvisability of continuing the exponential human population explosion” and encourage them to stop procreating at will! Time to face the facts that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. Why is the cost of producing, not most things, everything going up? Too many humans, consuming the Earth’s declining resource reserves!

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  23. Kathy says:

    The back to the land movement of the 70s has been cited a couple of times. Is there something we can do to foster something like that again?

    I think we’ve lost that concept forever. Why? Because today’s world is about fame and fortune. Everybody wants to be a star. Look at our television programs and social internet sites. They promote it and young people want it. Even if you’re nestled away from it all, with one click you can see what the world is doing.

    For some of us, living here is by choice. We are willing to live with less. Those who want more are not willing to get their hands dirty growing a garden or eating hamburger in order to make it work living here.

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  24. John Warren says:


    I have consistently rejected other people’s data because it’s been politically motivated, hasn’t told the whole story, and so doesn’t reflect the historic reality. Not that the data is necessarily wrong, but the interpretation in the local media sure has been.

    The history of the Adirondacks has been one of GROWTH, period. There have been occasional set-backs in isolated locations, but overall, the history is one of growth. Since 1970, three times faster than the state average and that doesn’t even include the 100,000 or so second homes that are built in the Park each year.

    What on earth do you think is going to happen? You figure Hamilton County is going to dissolve? You think roads are going to go un-plowed? Kids are going to get a worse education because they have smaller schools?

    Vermont’s population remained essentially unchanged for 100 years from 1850 to 1950 while young people moved west in large numbers – did Vermont disappear? Do we hear stories of the days when there were just 1,400 working adults? Of course not, the state’s population centers shifted and afterward it provided job opportunities for young people and they eventually the population rebounded dramatically. The roads didn’t go un-plowed. Maybe this change is GOOD for us.

    The main problem young people have today is fewer jobs because baby boomers are not retiring due to the economic hardship of living longer without affordable healthcare or retirements their parents and the eldest of them enjoyed. Why not stop beating this dead horse and start reporting on that?

    A little context for the numbers and little historical perspective shows clearly that you’re way off the mark.

    Ask yourself what other counties in New York have faced declining populations, and what happened to them? Nothing. And how does the Adirondack region stack up against them? Pretty well.

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  25. Brian Mann says:

    John –

    A cursory examination of on-line records shows that at least a half-dozen Vermont towns did in fact dissolve or disband during the period that you cite.

    And the North Country’s population isn’t expected to remain “unchanged.”

    In many counties, including Hamilton, it’s expected to decline sharply, even precipitously.

    During my brief time here, I’ve already seen significant real-world changes in the North Country. Grocery stores and churches close. Schools shuttered.

    More are almost certain to come. Several school districts in the southern Adirondacks are talking about mergers.

    That’s all worth talking about.

    I do understand your view. You think that this discussion is a shadowy way to promote a pro-development, anti-environment agenda. It’s not.

    But even if it were, you would need a much better and sharper set of arguments, to make any case that the region is doing “pretty well” demographically.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  26. zeke says:

    Instead of desolving certain Towns or Counties what if the powers that be decide they want to form new towns or counties in stategic places to avoid taxation that provides no services. Think second home market.

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  27. dave says:

    Jeez, I don’t know Brian… that seemed like a pretty sharp argument to me.

    Individual towns dissolving is not necessarily an indicator that an area is in danger of disappearing. Just as Vermont survived the population shifts in the period cited, so too it seems the Adirondacks are surviving the shifts away from some of our towns. Population moves seem natural and historically predictable to me.

    I know it hurts you to see grocery stores and churches in some of these remote towns close… I get that. I do. I respect your passion for them. But leaping like you are from that point to the conclusion that the Adirondacks are therefore endangered – is a tortured stretch. From where I sit, it seems to involve you setting aside your usual critical approach to the overall big picture of an issue… and instead has you zeroing in on a few data points and personal stories that support your premise.

    I’m sorry, but Hamilton county is not the Adirondacks. If the population of that individual county is declining, yet the overall population of the Adirondacks has held steady or increased… you can not, with any credibility, suggest that people are an endangered species in the Adirondacks. At best, you can say they are endangered in Hamilton County. But really, even that is a little dramatic is it not? Do you REALLY foresee a time when there are NO people in that stretch of the Adirondacks? It is a silly notion.

    Finally, while your motive here may not be to promote a pro-development agenda, it is utterly naive to think that that is not the inevitable outcome of such a discussion. I mean, can you really not see how this discussion is a gift to those who want to use and frame it to relax restrictions in the Park? Of course it is, and that is why it is so important to get this discussion right and to look at the big picture… and that is why it is so disappointing that you are not.

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  28. mervel says:

    We need more rich yuppies! But what is our model? Is the model places like Jackson Hole? They have an outdoor ethos and have many young people. But they also have many very wealthy people and many of the young people there are from families that can afford to support them while they kick around the mountains for a couple of years. Of course housing is not affordable for any “normal” family.

    What do we want to look like I think is a question to look at? Maybe small and old is what people desire? There is a whole cottage industry of cities and towns trying to attract old people to come and retire in their city or town.

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  29. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    Anita’s comment, “This comes from a mom whose child is working on a PhD in statistics. She won’t be back, except to visit, unless a position opens up someday at a local university …” , and others reflecting the loss of talented children to the outside world made something occur to me that may not be altogether negative. Our region may be partly losing youth because we raise such superior youth. The kind who, by nature, go forth and conquer (and don’t come back much). This includes a number who become celebrities of late…From Lake Placid, Keela Dates, whose work supporting a Kenyan school have, along with her good looks, gotten onto the cover of “Glamor” (and likely , far beyond), the young woman who used to be Elizabeth Grant, and whose songs I frequently heard on a recent trip around Europe; Dylan Ratigan, from Saranac Lake, who now hosts his own show on MSNBC-TV. Beyond these famous, I can think of a dozen or so of my children’s classmates from Saranac Lake who are now pursuing successful careers in science and, especially, medicine. Also NGO leaders, an FBI agent, a movie industry executive, and NFL executive, and more. It seems that an unusually high number of kids from, at least, the Tri-Lakes, succeed remarkably, though, alas, far away. Maybe this is just a perception, but I doubt it.

    Losing kids this way is sad, but not so sad as losing them to poverty or dead-end jobs. And parents cans still visit kids, and sometimes move near to kids, who have built wonderful lives for themselves where they found opportunity.

    So… it the worst thing in the world to have as a selling point for your communities, “A great place to raise very successful children”?

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  30. Becca Johnson says:

    I’ve been really trying to not get caught up in the back and forth here but I must say that I’m caught off guard by the defensive nature of many of the comments. (I’m sure that’s my youth and naiveté).

    In the 1960s and 1970s, when people of color all over the country were being mistreated and marginalized, many of you marched for civil rights. When big businesses were contaminating our lakes and rivers with toxins, many of you marched to save the environment. When the government was sending young teens off to certain death in Vietnam, you may have marched to save their lives.

    Why is that then, that we are content to end this discussion by simply saying, “It’s not a problem, because migration is happening all over in rural areas and it’s been happening for generations (or the data is just wrong).”

    So I offer this thought about the discussion:

    “The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

    Doing nothing, in this case, would be refusing to have an open mind to what this series offers as a potential risk to the north country from out-migration.

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  31. Mike says:

    My prescription is for young people (immediate post high school age) to move away. That’s right, move away to the big city and get your education, your professional/vocational skill set, your worldly global perspective and most importantly your deeper appreciation for what the North Country is. I see a local problem wherein kids grow up and stay close to family and friends and for lack of a better word they’re scared to take on the world.
    Get out there and get something going, and then bring it back here and grow something new. Bring your skills, your perspective, your fresh vision.

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  32. Paul says:

    “that doesn’t even include the 100,000 or so second homes that are built in the Park each year.”

    Yikes, I think you have too many zeros!

    I am also glad to see that I just barely fall into the “young” demographic.

    John, I have never seen Brian Mann or Will Doolittle say that NC towns have nothing to offer young people. They are simply reporting on what is going on and people reactions to those events. They can’t help if it you don’t like some of those reactions.

    You actually think that the demographer’s at Cornell have some political agenda? That is starting to sound like the conspiracy theory stuff that you normally decry in other forums.

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  33. Paul says:

    Becca, That was a great comment. Thanks.

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  34. dave says:

    Paul, where did John say that Cornell had a political agenda?

    Here is the quote in his comment that I think you skipped: “Not that the data is necessarily wrong, but the interpretation in the local media sure has been.”

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  35. dave says:

    Becca, taking action to address a problem assumes two things… that there is a problem, and that it needs to be addressed.

    What you are hearing here from some of us is a questioning of those two assumptions.

    But either way, comparing this “issue” to the civil rights era and the Vietnam War movement strikes me as unfair (at best). The answer to your question, why are people acting differently to this than they did to those events, is because they are indeed… different. Very different.

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  36. Becca Johnson says:

    Dave, that’s my point – who gets to decide what’s a “problem”? We need to be open to perspectives that are not similar to our own (which was why I was drawing a comparison to the civil rights era – not drawing a similarity to the issues)…

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  37. Paul says:

    Dave, yes thanks. He thinks that is not wrong but politically motivated none the less.

    The whole thing:

    “I have consistently rejected other people’s data because it’s been politically motivated, hasn’t told the whole story, and so doesn’t reflect the historic reality. Not that the data is necessarily wrong, but the interpretation in the local media sure has been.”

    I still don’t think that the Cornell demographers are politically motivated.

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  38. SirLeland says:

    I’m gonna go out of the way a little bit here and try to bring this back around to Brian’s original questions posed in this segment, particularly the first one:

    “What do you think can be done in your community to make it more inviting for people like Tim to stay, or return after a time out in the wider world?

    Can or should local governments do more to foster a youth culture?”

    Regarding this specific questions, I think there is an 800 lb. gorrilla that noone has addressed yet, which can be summed up in three words:

    Drugs, Drugs, Drugs.

    There has been a massive influx of drugs (mainly prescription) and drug related abuse and crimes in the North Country over the past 10 years or so. Couple this fact, with the comparative lack of positive activities available for young people, it’s difficult for any young person today, in this area in particular. If you’ve got hits on your record from drugs or drug related crime, you can’t get a decent job or education anywhere, whether it’s without or outside of the North Country. And if you become addicted, you lose all your self-worth, get trapped in the viscious cycle, and feel it’s not worth the effort to try.

    Not the only observation or reason, I’m sure, and I don’t know the answers, but surely this factors into the equation.

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  39. Paul says:

    Dave, also if you look at the articles that were written they simply reported the interpretation of that data made by Cornell not by the media. That was reporting on the fact that if the trend continues the population would continue to decline and age in some areas.

    Then what was wrong with asking some of the folks who run the towns if they were concerned with the trend? Or here what is wrong with asking folks about their experiences living through this “historical trend”?

    This is somehow fueling the trend? I don’t think so.

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  40. Paul says:

    SirLeland, you may have a point with the “drugs, drugs, drugs” theory but I disagree with his part.

    “Couple this fact, with the comparative lack of positive activities available for young people”

    There are so many positive activities that I can’t get my kids up there enough to take advantage of all of them. That is no excuse. The NC has “positive activities” in spades. Better than many other areas that are doing better in comparison.

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  41. SirLeland says:


    Well, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree (somewhat, not completely though).

    I would say that not unlike myself, you’re a lucky man, and parent, to be in the situation you are with your kids, and like myself, sounds like you have some wonderful kids there, and have them involved in some good activities. My littlest one is involved and loves karate, for example (she’s twelve).

    But I’m sad to say that you and I are more the exception than the rule.

    And please don’t take my word for it. The daily police blotter is rife with examples to my arguement.

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  42. zeke says:

    I think something needs to be done in the area of housing. The blight that seems to have impacted some towns needs to be adressed. How? Perhaps programs that would let people live in them tax free with some strings attached.

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  43. dave says:

    Paul, Brian is not just reporting interesting data here and gathering quotes from town officials about it. This series we are commenting on is entirely based around his premise – a premise he wrote an in depth article on called The Other Endangered Species – that the Adirondacks are fundamentally in danger.

    So yes, this data is absolutely being interpreted by the local media – and the way I am reading John’s comment is that he feels this interpretation is the problem… the interpretation (not the data) has “been politically motivated, hasn’t told the whole story, and so doesn’t reflect the historic reality.”

    As best as I can tell, he has a point. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say Brian’s reporting is politically motivated… but I’ve seen plenty that seems like it is… and I would absolutely agree that Brian is not telling the whole story here (although I now believe it is because he is just not seeing it)

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  44. Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks –

    Obviously if John Warren and Dave can demonstrate that there’s no problem here in the North Country’s demographics, they don’t need to prove that my reporting is politically motivated.

    This series would by default be misguided and unproductive, regardless of motivation.

    To make their case, they just have to explain how Hamilton County functions over the next several decades when its population drops by nearly half and most of the remaining residents are over 60.

    What happens to the dozen or so governmental agencies? How do people receive basic services?

    Without resorting to fuzzy abstractions or political bromides , explain how the seven school districts — already with fewer than 200 kids apiece — can maintain the status quo?

    Explain why that’s not something that’s worth discussing and debating.

    And it’s not just Hamilton County, or the Park, that we’re talking about.

    What does it mean that St. Lawrence County will lose 300 young people per year, every year, over the next three decades?

    Nothing? If that’s your view, defend it.

    And what about Essex County? What does it mean that every age category is expected to lose population between now and 2040 — except the categories of people over age 65 and over age 85?

    Will that change the fabric of community life? If not, why not?

    –Brian, NCPR

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  45. Pete Klein says:

    Thanks for the link to Albert A. Bartlett. His points are points I have been making for years.
    I live in and love Hamilton County because it is not Saratoga County, a place I would never live in. I would rather go back to NYC than live in Saratoga.
    One of the things I first realized when I moved up here that even sparsely populated Hamilton County is too heavily populated to live off the land.
    Bartlett is right. We have painted ourselves into a corner with our dependence on growth.
    There is absolutely no way energy conservation will work to solve any of our problems if population growth continues.
    Sure, the Adirondacks could use some population growth because of the life styles we demand. But the Adirondacks is not the world. Evens so, we are being affected by the growth in the world population and the resulting demands for more and more energy. We see it in the price of gas, fuel oil and food.
    You could chop all of trees down in the Adirondacks and it would solve nothing. You could put up windmills to generate electricity on every mountain and ridge line and it would solve nothing. We can drill for oil anywhere world and get coal by every and any method and it would solve nothing. Nothing will be solved unless the population in every part of the world stops growing and, preferably, goes down.
    I get the feeling there are those who don’t care because they believe they can live high on the hog and will die before the bells toll. There others who want to see the end of the world because they hate it and can hardly wait for their wished for Armageddon. What the two have in common is selfishness.
    Oh, and let’s not forget jobs. With automation and computerization, we should not expect to see anything approaching pre 2008 employment levels. Business simply does not need as many workers as it once did. People have become worth less than a dime a dozen.
    Compared to the balance of the world, we have it great in terms of jobs available. The balance of the world, especially its young, look at us and see the enemy because we consume more and make more. We are not loved. We are dreaming if we think we have any allies.

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  46. mervel says:

    Schools will have to consolidate and close, regardless of what we do. We can do that in an orderly thoughtful way or we can do it in a haphazard unthoughtful way, I would prefer the former. So in that sense this discussion is valuable.

    Right now in Canton for example they are laying off this year, I think around 18-20 positions most of them teachers, last year they let teachers go; other school systems are not laying off anybody. It would seem that if 10 years ago people had thought about the future a little more, you would not have these large jagged disruptions. When you have these sorts of reductions, who goes? The young teachers or the old teachers?

    Better planning could have avoided that sort of draconian reduction.

    So yes I really feel it is useful to talk about the implications of fewer youth and fewer people in general.

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  47. Pete Klein says:

    Our small schools with low enrollments are one of our best selling tools to attract young families.
    They can and in many cases do provide a high quality education comparable to private schools.
    Lose our schools and it’s curtains for every town struggling to survive.

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  48. Doldrums says:

    The Atlantic Magazine some time ago showed a night view of North America to demonstrate that the urban areas were lit up brightly while the majority of the country was dark, including the North Country. The point of that image was to show that those areas now account for the preponderance of GDP. The lit up areas is now the economic engine of the country and thus where the jobs are. The young, those <45yo, are in the phase of their lives where they are building careers, and you build it by starting at the entry level. Just by pure math, there's just more of them in the urban areas so that's where the young go. This trend is supported by this piece and the recent census data.

    What can a rural area like the North Country do about this? It can reverse this trend by going after not just any young person but those in this cohort with school age children by investing in great schools. Good schools is the basic building block for vibrant communities. It is the nucleus around which economic activity revolve. Without it, communities decay. Unfortunately for the North Country, two huge factors must be overcome to support the investment in public education. The population is older and seasonal. Both of these groups are generally opposed to high investment in public education b/c it increases property taxes, which in NYS is largely funded locally by real property taxes. Why pay for schools when your own children are not in them is the classic conundrum?

    How does one overcome these obstacles? The community must have a conversation about this and to get political support at all levels for deepening the support for great schools. I am hopeful but will not hold my breadth.

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  49. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The listening area for NCPR is so large that it is difficult to make any sort of generalization about it. Canton and Potsdam each have a couple of colleges, Plattsburg has a big SUNY school, Glens Falls and Saranac Lake have a community college and Paul Smith’s has, uh, Paul Smiths.

    And then there’s Speculator, Paradox, Hope, Wells, Benson Cranberry Lake Wanakeena, Malone, Ausable Forks, Sodom, Oxbow, Day, Lake Desolation, Peru, Poland and New Russia, Copenhagen. Long Lake, Indian Lake, Tupper Lake, Newcomb.
    Old Forge. Bay Pond, Keene Valley, the Ausable Club, the Adirondack League Club, the Gooley Club. Mayfield, Croghan, Piercefield, Lowville Booneville. Bakers Mills, North Hudson, Big Moose, Caroga Lake.

    Sure there’s stuff happening in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, but things can be pretty bleak for a lot of people in many of those areas that are still on Dial up Internet.

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  50. Matt T. says:

    I went to Clarkson, wife to SUNY Potsdam. We moved to far away lands and came back because the public education system where we were living was sub par to that of the Potsdam school system, and my wife’s mother was ill. In the RTP area of North Carolina both my wife and I made either 6 figures or close to it, I am an actuarialist and she is a CPA. Now our combined incomes do not equal what one of us was making in North Carolina. Her job (32 hours a week is considered PT and no benefits) mine is FT, but to cover the whole family on my plan is too expensive. Kids have Child Health Plus, wife has nothing, I have pretty mediocre coverage. I wished we had done better research about “living” in this area, we aren’t really living, we are just “eking” out an existence. Until employers learn to pay decent wages, with decent benefits packages, youth will move away, we wish we had never come back and now spend time looking for other places to live, trying to exist in the North Country is just too hard. Thanks for the story. PS I am 36, my wife is 35.

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