Why don’t more people live here?

I know, I know.  It’s complicated.  But last night as I sat on Lake Clear beach watching kids play in the waves, I kept thinking, Why aren’t we fighting people off with sticks?

I could see the blueberry bushes ripening along the shore.  A windsurfer was cutting across the waves.  My son and niece were howling with laughter as they dunked each other.  It couldn’t be any better.

A generation ago, Washington state and Oregon were just as rural, just as dependent on natural resources and low-wage tourism jobs as the North Country is now.

But people flocked to the beauty and sense of community and opportunity that those places offered.  And with remarkable speed they built up thriving, bustling economies.

And that was before the age of tele-commuting and freelance work made it possible to choose, far more deliberately, where you want to live.

So why aren’t people swarming to our beauty and quality of life?

The truth is that we have all the ingredients.  Cool, intact little communities.  Relatively affordable real estate, compared with other parts of the US.  A lot of our towns have broadband.  Good schools.

You can paddle a lake in the morning, work an eight-hour day, then be in an art gallery, a funky concert, or a professional theater performance by night.

I’m sure there are equally great places to raise kids, somewhere in the world — but there are certainly none better.

There is, of course, winter.  And black flies.  But please.  For anyone willing to adjust their sensibilities a little, our version of winter becomes a celebration, from moonlight cross-country skis to luminous ice palaces.

And surely a few bugs are no more oppressive than a long, rush-hour commute, or an office cubicle, or a community where there is no actual community.

At the end of the day, I’m chalking this one up to pure mystery.  For whatever reason, the richness of life here is one of New York state’s best kept secret — maybe one of the best kept secrets in the country.

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77 Comments on “Why don’t more people live here?”

  1. oa says:

    Some theories:
    No big urban center, or big state university, or Boeing, to anchor and attract growth (see UOregon, UWashington, or even Burlington and UVM).
    And for years, absolutely horrible, or non-existent, marketing of the area by everyone except Lake Placid.
    Also, don’t know about WA, but a good number of the rural areas of Oregon are not exactly “Happy Days” right now.

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  2. Pete Klein says:

    Many of the people who live here actually like the place for many of the reasons most people don’t want to live here.
    They like the fact that it isn’t Saratoga. They prefer the colder seasons to the warmer seasons.
    Yes, we would like a few more people, especially young people, to live here but the emphasis is on few.

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  3. Will Doolittle says:

    When you live in a place, I think, you see it differently from the way people see it who don’t live there. You see the good, gloss over the not so good. I’m guessing many people from other places would not describe the local schools overall as “good,” for example, if for no other reason than their lack of resources. And in comparison with bigger places, much of what a village like Saranac Lake has to offer, in shopping, in culture, in dining out and so on, is scant and mediocre. A restaurant that, in the context of what else is available in Saranac Lake, is pretty good, is in a larger context, not good at all. And many people do not care that much about something that seems to mean a lot to you — proximity to wilderness. The one thing Saranac Lake has, is access to beautiful, incredible nature. But most people are content to get that during vacations, if at all.

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  4. wj says:

    I think lots of people drive through northern New York and ask, “What do people DO around here?”

    We know what we do and we like it. But I think a lot of visitors pass through unable to envision how they’d spend 24 or 48 hours here. If they had a day like the one Brian describes, that would help.

    But there’s a cultural hurdle, too. People in WA, OR and VT are – generally speaking – more open to visitors.

    I lost count of all the times I stopped in restaurants, boutiques, outdoor stores – places that really benefit from tourist traffic – and heard the employees saying how much they loathe tourists and couldn’t wait for them to leave. And they said this stuff without knowing who I am. Meaning, they had no hesitation in telling a potential tourist how much they hated tourists.

    Fix that and it might be a bit easier to draw year-’rounders.

    Another thing: there are reasons artistic types are often the first to ‘colonize’ an area that’s largely devoid of urban niceties and conveniences: artists have imaginations and these areas are cheap.

    Sometimes, that’s enough.

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  5. Paul says:

    I think it is all about marketing. I have friends up to my camp in Saranac Lake from down here in central NY and they are totally clueless of what the area has to offer (and some of them are smart well connected people). Many of them see the area only as a seasonal destination. I had one friend of mine actually ask if all the roads are plowed in the wintertime. Some are not, but most are!

    The competition for businesses is fierce. You have to bend over backwards to attract them.

    From my perspective maybe I am glad they are clueless and the place is poorly marketed?

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  6. Gary says:

    The APA!

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  7. Dave Mason says:

    What a beautiful weekend it was! When an entranced visitor asks “What do people do here?” the question is often about work. They can’t imagine how to make a living here and that ends their fantasy.

    It strikes me as lazy to blame some part of the government (e.g. the APA or xyz). Sorry, I don’t buy it. The government has tried to solve the jobs problem for years (e.g. prisons) but to no avail. No, we have to figure this out ourselves.

    Fact is we have figured out an answer for ourselves, or we wouldn’t be here either. We just haven’t figured out a good enough answer to create jobs for others.

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  8. Alan W says:

    After retiring from our professions in southern New England, we moved to northern New York and enjoyed several years of working there. The primary reason we left the north country was because of the inordinate tax burden the State of New York placed on our out-of-state retirement incomes. Yet, retirement incomes that originate in New York are not taxed. Definitely not a welcoming situation. Other states encourage retirees to move to their domain; New York unfortunately does not.

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  9. Gary says:

    Dave, If your comment was in regards to my APA comment let me just say this. For several years my wife was a town clerk. On many occasions she would get calls from conractors outside the north country. They were seeking info on obtaining building permits. When they were told they would also have to go through the APA the conversation ended! I don’t think the APA has a good reputation with contractors.

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  10. Ken Hall says:

    I agree with Gary that fortunately the APA has had significant influence on the reduced development of the Adirondack region.

    I grew up in and around the Adirondacks in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s; Wanakena and around the Potsdam area. I loved wandering the woods behind the NYS Ranger School from 1950 to 1956 (8-13 years old), with my faithful dog Whiskers, seldom running into any other humans.

    The creation of the Adirondack Park in 1892 (conceived of 30 or more years prior to) is to my mind the most significant reason that the Adirondack region is as beautiful as it currently remains. How long does one imagine the remaining beauty, that is apparently appreciated by those who continue to live around here, would continue to exist if the Park did not exist? I for one do not find wall to wall fast food, dry cleaning, pawn shops, tattoo parlors, strip malls, …………. nearly as pleasing to the eye and nose as the deep green and clean earthy smell of the unimproved woods of the Adirondacks.

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  11. Will Doolittle says:

    The Adirondack Park and the APA are two different things. Your post seems to acknowledge this, while at the same time conflating the two. If the APA had never been created the Adirondack Park would not have vanished.

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  12. Phill says:

    First and foremost, you need to be able to *afford* to live here. My partner and I have what are considered good jobs in this area, which we are very, very thankful for. But we each make under $30k a year. With even fixer-upper homes in our town in the $100k+ range, that’s tough. We’ve been lucky. We very likely would have eventually left if we hadn’t been lucky.

    To many people, the Winters would be considered hard. Major air travel is, if not quite difficult, expensive and a little annoying. Health insurance with small businesses (if offered) does not come close to larger companies in more bigger places. Gas prices are higher. If you need a bow tie or a bread maker, you’re going to drive an hour or more.

    I think we that live here believe the trade-off is worth it, but I can also understand how many people would not.

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  13. dave says:


    Right now I am shopping around for a very small construction project that will require a permit. Whenever I talk to someone who say they will not handle the permitting process for me… I hang up on them, and simply called the next business. There are plenty who are experienced with the process and understand it is a part of doing business here, and therefore one of them will be getting my money.

    Just because some contractors are not willing to, or do not know how to, obtain APA permits does not mean that buildings go unbuilt.

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  14. Paul says:

    Why do we have to speculate? I assume that some economic development organizations know these answers. If they don’t, do the research and find out. Personally I doubt that the APA has much to do with the lack of the type of commercial development that Brain is describing. Maybe they can have an impact of tourism related development (resorts and tourist amenities) but most industrial type development, if it were to occur, would not be on a wetland or on a lake shore. Distance from transportation hubs could be an issue. Given the current lack of infrastructure funds you are not going to be able to build much now. All business is going to funnel to where it is much easier to set up shop. I don’t think Ken has too much to worry about.

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  15. Karina says:

    The quality of life (schools, cultural and entertainment activities, etc.) are outstanding in the ADKs, not to mention the surroundings.

    I would absolutely relocate to the area if both my husband and I could find a job in professional careers with competetive salary and benefits. Outside of health care, education, or prisons, there are really limited employers in the area. And the isolation of the area makes it difficult for anyone to tele-commute if occasional or frequent travel is necessary. More affordable, reliable and shorter flights from Saranac Lake or Plattsburgh to more destinations would make it much easier to attract companies, telecommuters, or self-employed individuals. As it is now, it’s at least a half-day, if not full-day trip each way to go to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, or most other cities, which would mean a lot of lost time and money for a company.

    There are so many industries which can operate online, which would be ideal in the ADKs, with low environmental impact. But aside from broadband, we need more than slow 8-seat Cape Air flights to link the area to the rest of the country.

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  16. Ken Hall says:

    Will, As I recall the Adirondack Park Agency was created to get around the more stringent requirements of the 1895 Constitutional Protection: “Forever Wild” which required the approval of a majority of the state’s voters and two successive legislatures to obtain permission to adversely affect the Park areas. Was it not in or about 1971 that the APA was created to accommodate the developers who were frothing at the mouth to gain access to the Park so as to build, build, build? I reckon the developers expected the APA members would simply be stamp pad wielders sans any backbone.

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  17. Pete Klein says:

    A note on the contractors who don’t want to do business here because of the APA permit process – well all I can say is they don’t live and work here and why would anyone want to hire any contractor who doesn’t live here when there are plenty who do?
    Hire local! Not only would you be helping local people earn a living, you would also being hiring someone who knows how to build to meet the needs of the local climate and land conditions.

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  18. Newt says:

    sj said, “Another thing: there are reasons artistic types are often the first to ‘colonize’ an area that’s largely devoid of urban niceties and conveniences: artists have imaginations and these areas are cheap.”

    It occurs to me that same might be said about gays (of course, not to stereotype, but the two groups tend to overlap). I’ve gotten to know half a dozen or more gay couples new to the Saranac Lake area in the past few years. Gays, like “artistic types” have historically tended to be “urban pioneers”, the advanced guard in the revival of run-down city neighborhoods. I’ve also heard of old Hudson Valley mill towns more recently brought back to life by a migration of artists and/or gays. Maybe this is starting to happen here.

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  19. stillin says:

    My kids all live outside of here and do not miss it. Our town is just a sad little redneck town that offers nothing. Yes, the Adirondacks are great but they can be suffocating too. There is not a lot of diversity. Our school is corrupt, nepotistic and getting worse by the year. Taxes for what I own, are insane. Now, geographically, love it, but that can’t be the only thing that keeps you somewhere. I have lived in many places in the U.S. and have liked those places too. I might end up on a small, small farm eventually, but only one of my kids may remain up here. This area, which I don’t want to name the town, is known for petty conversations, bars, no good music, no good art, no good restaurants and even travel or college offered things, are always a drive. I was born here, but more and more, I think, maybe not, as far as staying for good. Also, my neighborhood that used to have the most educated people, is now full of uneducated, 2-3 families renting what used to be nice homes, and last of all, let’s not forget the 20 cops a day. Massena.

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  20. oa says:

    Will Doolittle said: “You see the good, gloss over the not so good. I’m guessing many people from other places would not describe the local schools overall as “good,” for example…”
    Will, I beg to differ. I can’t believe how negative long-time North Country residents often are about their own area, and I think that’s one reason for the poor marketing. For anyone who relocates, the first question is often, “Why did you move HERE?” They often fail to recognize the potential here, IMO. And I’ve found the schools in my area to be fine (and not in an Obama sense.) But there’s no shortage of people who love tearing them down.
    Of course, not everyone is like this, all the caveats, etc… Just my opinion.

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  21. Pete says:

    I think the forest preserve is overall a good thing. The Adirondacks would not be as nice as they are without Article 14.

    However I think that the APA’s implementation of “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands” has in many cases been overly restrictive. The environmental groups while they say they are not against economic development have pushed the APA and DEC in that respect.

    I don’t think that OR and WA have any equivalent language in their constitution. I am sure there are environmental protections but probably the people in the rural areas don’t have an “APA” telling them what they can and can’t do.

    Ken – The APA was definitely not created to accommodate developers.

    The APA Act says:
    “In the past the Adirondack environment has been enhanced by the intermingling of public and private land. A unique pattern of private land use has developed which has not only complemented the forest preserve holdings but also has provided an outlet for development of supporting facilities necessary to the proper use and enjoyment of the unique wild forest atmosphere of the park. This fruitful relationship is now jeopardized by the threat of unregulated development on such private lands. Local governments in the Adirondack park find it increasingly difficult to cope with the unrelenting pressures for development being brought to bear on the area, and to exercise their discretionary powers to create an effective land use and development control framework.”

    So it is clear that the purpose was to add state level layer of land use control on top of any local government so that development could be further restricted even if local governments did not object or had no zoning in place.

    The APA Act also says:
    The Adirondack park land use and development plan set forth in this article recognizes the complementary needs of all the people of the state for the preservation of the park`s resources and open space character and of the park`s permanent, seasonal and transient populations for growth and service areas, employment, and a strong economic base, as well.

    I think the APA has paid disproportionately little attention to “a strong economic base.” Therefore, there is no strong economic base in the Adirondacks.

    Combine the scarcity of good careers or even decent well-paying jobs in the Adirondacks with the high taxes in NYS and you have a disincentive for anyone to move to the Adirondacks especially from out of state unless they really love the place and either have lots of money already, are lucky enough to find a good job, or are willing to get by on a minimal income and/or work long hours.

    I believe it would be possible to change the economic situation if the APA and other regulatory agencies would make it a priority and the environmental groups would cooperate instead of sue, sue, sue. However I don’t see it happening.

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  22. Will Doolittle says:

    I don’t know what your “fine” comment means. I think the Obama administration’s policies on education have been very good.
    I don’t think the phenomenon of being a hometown booster is limited to the North Country, but I do think it goes to Brian’s question about why people aren’t beating down the doors to live in, say, Saranac Lake. Perhaps because they feel what they have in Long Island or New Jersey or Glens Falls (where I live) is better, and also because what Saranac Lake has that is clearly superior (wilderness) is not something they care about much.
    One example of what I mean: After living in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake for several years, I moved to Malone for almost 3 years. I found very little to like there (schools, arts, dining, shopping — all absent or lousy) and yet local people would tell me how nice it was, and that they had no desire to move. People are inclined, I think, to make the best of things and also to grow attached to the region they know.

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  23. Dave Mason says:

    Karina says: “There are so many industries which can operate online, which would be ideal in the ADKs, with low environmental impact. But aside from broadband, we need more than slow 8-seat Cape Air flights to link the area to the rest of the country.” I totally agree. The Plattsburgh Airport seems to have a better shot at becoming much more substantial.

    The ADK Park is a huge place. There are bright spots. The Global Foundries project in Malta (nr Saratoga) is, currently, the largest semiconductor production facility in the world. The center of semiconductor research, SEMATECH, has also moved there. This all points to improved job prospects for the southeastern portion of the Park.

    At the end of the day, nice as it is, the issue for people who want to move here is finding work.

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  24. Will D’s right, sort of. People do see where they live differently than outsiders, though not always for the better. Of course it’s easy for people with a political agenda to blame the APA, but the Adirondacks have always been lightly populated and slow growing, even before there was not only an APA but an Adirondack Park.

    People don’t live here because it’s remote, because there are a lot of bugs at times, because the weather’s harsh, because (Northway aside) there aren’t any Interstates, because there’s not a lot of shopping centers, because there aren’t a lot of great jobs…

    Those who live in the Adirondacks put up with these things. Some live there precisely BECAUSE of these things. They like the remoteness. They like the lack of traffic. They like that the bugs keep away the crowds. They like the leisurely pace. These would all be compromised if the place got more crowded. Just compare much of California now to 60 years ago or, closer to home, Queensbury or Clifton Park now to 40 years ago.

    Fundamentally Brian M, your analyses on this topic don’t address the more fundamental issue that population increase is not without negative consequence. I fear that a population influx would destroy what’s great about the Adirondacks, as has happened in other formerly remote parts of the country. One of the great things about NYS and the US more broadly is that there’s something for everybody. Let’s keep it that way and not press to making everywhere like everywhere else. There’s more than enough for those who want the urban or suburban way of life.

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  25. Pete Klein says:

    For me the ideal (if I could afford it) would be the exact opposite of the part-timers.
    I would continue to live and work here but I would have an apartment in Manhattan. That to me would be the best of both worlds.

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  26. Walker says:

    “I think the APA has paid disproportionately little attention to “a strong economic base.” Therefore, there is no strong economic base in the Adirondacks.”

    Pete, if economic conditions were dramatically better north and west of the Park, what you say might make sense. But they’re not, which leads me to the conclusion that the economic problems in the Park are a result of the same factor as most of the rest of the North Country: it’s too rural to draw a lot of business or a lot of people. Rural areas throughout the nation are losing population or at least not growing– a trend that has been going on for decades.

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  27. Dale Hobson says:

    There’s more to “here” than just the Adirondack Park. If APA regulations were the main driver in the regional down economy, I would expect big differences in unemployment between the counties with most of their population inside the blue line, and counties with most of the population outside.

    The correlation, based on April 2012 unemployment numbers (not seasonally adjusted), is pretty weak. St. Lawrence 10.1%, Jefferson 10.0%, Franklin 9.7%, Essex 10.7%, Clinton 9.6%, Herkimer 9.1%, Warren 8.6%, Hamilton, 11.7%, Washington 7.3%.

    What we do have in common is that all of us are above both the national average and the state average, except Washington County.

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  28. Paul says:

    “Was it not in or about 1971 that the APA was created to accommodate the developers who were frothing at the mouth to gain access to the Park so as to build, build, build?”

    Say what? So going from basically no land use controls prior to the APA (at least in many areas outside hamlets) to some restrictions on development (in fact some of the strongest restrictions in the US) was done to accommodate developers? Ken, how does that work?

    I am sorry but I have to agree with Will. I grew up in Saranac Lake and I think that now the school district is maybe not where I would want my kids to go compared to where they are here in central NY. I have friends and relatives that work in the district and they tell me things are not as good as they were when I was there and in some cases are not good at all. If the folks that are working there are not cheering it on how do you expect an outside observer to do that.

    Many areas, despite the assertions of many, are becoming somewhat dilapidated. Once you venture outside a town like Lake Placid things are looking pretty scuzzy. That doesn’t help. Just drive around the once very nice neighborhoods of Saranac Lake. Former beautiful cure cottages are now apartment type places in need of some serious sprucing up.

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  29. Paul says:

    “What we do have in common is that all of us are above both the national average and the state average, except Washington County.”

    It is true it is like a race to the bottom. We are all neck in neck!

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  30. The Silver Fox lives says:

    As someone who was born and raised in SL, went to Paul Smiths College, and have family that dates back at least 4 generations, I feel that I have a very valid opinion on this matter. I currently live in the Albany area and could never imagine returning to SL on a permanent basis. I love to visit for a long weekend, but other than that, do not miss it. Winter Carnival is great fun, seeing a white Christmas in the ADK’s is unbeatable, when the weather is warm enough, swimming in the lakes in July and Aug is great. If you’re into it (I’m not) camping, hiking, skiing, snowshoe, etc etc are great, but you have to be into those activities. Overall, the weather is awful in the ADK’s. An abbreviated summer that begins around July 4th and ends is Aug. A great fall that ends too quickly, with snow likely by Halloween. A long atrocious winter that never ends, SL is the coldest place in the nation more times than any other place. Spring exists from memorial day to mid June, prior to that you have an awful 1-2 months of mud, bugs, rain, and cool temps. If you don’t like to ski, ice fish, or the like, than you basically hibernate for 5-6 months during the dark, grey winter. The weather in the Albany area is 5-15 degrees warmer on any given day, with more sun and daylight. That makes a difference.

    Whomever railed against the education system is wrong in my view. I’ve taught school and hold a number of graduate degrees in the field of education. The education I received in SL was very good. Caring teachers, small class sizes, good sports programs, art, music, field trips, fun projects, decent facilities all creating an above average educational experience. I’ve talked to teachers at NCCC who find even the below average students at the community college from SL have better basic skills than students from other schools. With more distance learning etc happening, I think you will see more AP and other types of courses offered to students. Yes, there is petty small town politics, old-boy networks of nepotism etc, bullying and some other issues that need to be addressed; but overall the schools are one of the best parts of the tri-lakes. Yet, I can live in a suburban district around here and my children could attend a top-rated school with all sorts of programs and offerings, with high graduation rates and success. I truly appreciate the basic education that I received, but not enough to want to live in SL.

    For someone like myself, I enjoy diversity, great restaurants, sports, live music, plays, and other high culture. This doesn’t exist in SL. Pendragon is Jr high compared to a Broadway cast at Proctors. We try to support our local movie theaters, but sometimes I want to see a big-budget action in 3D and a mall theater is just better picture, sound, and seats. I’d have to drive to Plattsburg and use 1/2 tank. There are some good places to eat in LP, but there isn’t the diversity of foods and fine dining that exists in a city, even a small city like Albany. A poster above mentioned how they didn’t want SL to become Saratoga, well I think Toga is great. Lots of museums, restaurants, culture, the track, live music at SPAC, a vibrant downtown, highly educated people etc. To go to a concert in SL, I’d have to drive at least 2-3 hrs, cute local shows are not the same. In Albany, we have single A baseball, minor league Hockey, Division 1 college sports, and easy access to Pro level games in NYC or Boston. Taking a day trip from SL to see a baseball game isn’t really an option.

    As someone earning their PhD, with a wife earning her CPA, what prospects would we have in SL? I could teach at NCCC or commute to Plattsburg (which is awful in winter), my wife could work for a small company and earn 1/2 or what she would here, with little room to move up. The economy is very limited in the ADK’s, particularly the tri-lakes. The prisons, Hospital, various levels of education, small business, or tourist/service industry in Placid, there is really nothing else. Housing might be slightly cheaper, but taxes are still high, gas and food costs are significantly higher. On average, gas is 10-12 cents/gl higher in SL than in Albany, that adds up fast.

    As someone above lamented, I can get my “fix” of the clean, fresh mountains, the peace etc by coming up for a long weekend/ week long rental in the summer and after return to the amenities and diversity that I expect and have grown accustomed to. For some, the scenery and outdoor activities out-weigh the negatives that myself and others have outlines, clearly those are a small group that have chosen to keep a wonderful small town alive. Best wishes to all….

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  31. mervel says:

    The APA is not the problem as Dale correctly points out.

    Its simply hard to make a living here. There are pockets of good employment, the hospitals, public schools, universities, places like the Trudeu Center. But in general look at the job adds, its tough out there. Housing is relatively low outside of the park, but then you throw in high taxes across the board, from property to income tax and its not that cheap. The actual cost of a 150,000 home with a 4% yearly property tax (6000 per year or an extra 500 per month to your payment), is like adding another 50,000 to your mortgage and it will never go away and only go up.

    It is a great place though. But people need health insurance, they need to be able to send their kids to college. We are stuck in a death vortex of a rural low wage economy tied to a tax and cost structure meant for an expensive city.

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  32. mervel says:

    If you had a family income of above 100,000 with good benefits; I think it is a great place for those people.

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  33. mervel says:

    Also do we want to be like those other places? If did become a big kind of groovy destination place like Oregon or Washington, it would not be nice anymore anyway.

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  34. Pete says:

    Yup, an income of over 100K + benefits would probably allow you to live in the Adks but chances are you’d be working outside or you’d just have a second home to which to might move when you retire.

    Think about the “pockets of good employment” and you will realize that in most Adirondack towns the majority of good-paying jobs with benefits are public sector jobs working for the state, county, town, or school district. The benefits might be ok but most of these are not even close to 100K jobs.

    Many of the tourism-relateed jobs are seasonal and low paying. Even most business owners are usually not doing that well.

    What is needed is development of good business and employment opportunities that don’t depend on weather-related tourism or the public sector.

    I think that in many cases even though the locals know that tourism income is fickle due to the weather and other factors, they still have the mindset that tourism is the only thing that they can do. So in part this might be a local problem.

    However, there have been and are various economic development programs but they have not really worked. If the state would put as much effort in to Adirondack economic development as they do in to environmental regulation, things might be different.

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  35. Kent Gregson says:

    I wrote a song about the natural deterants to overdevelopment of the ADKs. Here’s the chorus;
    Thank God for Black Flies and long winters
    May the Lord bless mud season in spring
    And if we may say “Have a nice rainy day”
    Adirondackers know what we mean

    William West Durrant had Blue Mountain Lake sub-divided and ready for sale in small lots before the turn of the twentieth century. We have lived in the shadow of the megalopolis for centuries without suffering the degradation of human habitat that has been seen from Maine to the Carolinas anymore.

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  36. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Maybe people don’t want to move here because they don’t want to listen to the incessant bitching about the APA. I’m starting to wonder why I stay here myself.

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  37. newt says:


    I agree Saranac Lake is less spiffy than it was a couple of years ago, i.e., before the Great Recession. But, looks a heck of a lot better than when I moved here in ’81, and every 3rd storefront was empty.

    The school district has it’s problems, but probably fewer than many. I forgot to bookmark it, but a magazine called “Business First” out of Buffalo ranked SLCSD 2nd in Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties, and 90th in the state. This was based mostly on test scores,not the best true measure I will grant you, but it says something. Probably says more about the families who send their kids there than the district itself, but not not totally meaningless. SL’s music and art programs are outstanding. Most of all, both the football and hockey teams advanced to the State semifinals this year, the true mark of an outstanding school district . ;-)

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  38. oa says:

    Will, I don’t think you got my meaning, so I’ll clarify, quickly:
    When I said “fine, and not in an Obama sense” I was referring to Obama saying the private sector was “fine” and chastised for it. When I say fine, dammit, I mean fine. I think North Country schools are, in my experience anyway, fine.
    Second, I was trying to rebut your point that people around here are boosters. I find quite a lot of people to be whatever the opposite of local boosters are–local haters, maybe? Lots of complaining, and wishing they could move to Florida or Texas or someplace, and, in my opinion, not recognizing assets in the North Country–and therefore not doing much to market those assets.

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  39. Stephen says:

    “Why don’t more people live here?”
    1. There are few jobs. Any wonder why most young folks leave the area after high school?
    2. Virtually no public transportation. Any readers remember the daily bus service from SL to Montreal via Plattsburgh? I’m not dissing Cape Air, but flights to Boston?? doesn’t seem help the tourism business much. We have all this squabbling over the only railroad left in the Adirondacks. No, it won’t solve transportation issues immediately but it could be a start for something more grand. There are ski areas in the Alps that rely on trains to bring in customers.
    3. The APA might not be a creation of the devil but it sure has it’s detractors. It likely scares away more than a few potential newcomers and commercial investment
    4. The Adirondacks are special but honestly not a groovy destination. Just a reality check.
    5. The black flies. It is pretty sad when cultural events on Mirror Lake get shortened/cancelled due to the nasty insects.

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  40. Newt says:

    Thinking about it, it’s jobs.
    In the central Adirondacks, the economic base is government and tourism, with gas stations, foodstores, and more govt. jobs (schools) based on this. You can want to move here all you want to, but unless there is an employer, you won’t last. I’ll bet nearly every immigrant to the region who reads this can attest to it with a personal story. I was lucky to find a full-time, low paying job after nearly a year and a half of scrambling. It took my wife about 5 years, though she was also having babies at the time.
    Brians lead should be, “Why Don’t More Bsuinesses Locate here?” And that question has been beaten to death here.

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  41. Michael Greer says:

    I love living here. My first reaction to Brian’s story title was “Shut up, You’ll spoil ti”. We live right in the Village of Potsdam, the taxes are outrageous, but we have enjoyed the convenience of the village for 20 years, essentially living on one income. People whine too much, and nobody wants to do anything to improve their place in the world. If jobs, jobs, jobs is what would make you happy, then move to North Carolina. If black flies ruin your life, move to Manhattan. If the winter is too damned long…you haven’t been paying attention. I was still gardening at the end of October, and it was 80 degrees in April. Perhaps getting outside would be good for ya.

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  42. Kirby Selkirk says:

    SHHHHHH, they may stay.

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  43. tootightmike says:

    Here in Potsdam, we could use a little economic development. We could use a little new housing. We could use a few new businesses to do the things that aren’t available here. We need some real investment in our community. and our quality of life.
    But here in Potsdam, (and it’s probably true of Canton and too many other villages), we are literally surrounded by a special sort of “investors”. Take a look at the tax maps and you’ll find that every parcel of open, unused land around the Village is owned by a party who’s name you’d probably recognize…people with some money who’ve decided to “invest” in real estate. These people plan to make money, they want money, they dream of money, but “the plan”, is to sit on their butts and wait for it to come to them. With the exception of Mr Sheehan, none of these “investors” seems to have the least idea or interest in what they might actually DO with the parcels they hold. They don’t realize that this puts them in the same class as Mr Robar, our Potty King…waiting for money to fall on him, and blaming the system when it doesn’t.
    There was a time in this country when a person with money used it to DO something.

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  44. Clyde Rabideau says:

    Will: Saranac Lake is setting the standard for Adirondack communities. We have a downtown with a strong heartbeat of family owned businesses–a rarity in any part of the nation–an amazing arts community and unique restaurants that provide culinary delights that hold their own anywhere. Our community has come together to organize a Community Store that garnered national attention. The result of a 12-year dream, we have a carousel with artisan-carved animals (including a black-fly) to ride. We are repeatedly recommended as a destination by national media. For economic development, we recently won a New York Conference of Mayors award for recruiting new bio-tech businesses into the Village. Saranac Lake is on a roll.

    Saranac Lake, with 5,400 strong and growing, is a bright light and has a sustainable, strong and vibrant future. I invite to come back and visit. I’ll even buy you a coffee or a beer…or both…and chat with you. You may even decide to stick around, seek a job at our local paper, bring your kids up in our award-winning schools and walk out your door to those fantastic 46ers and amazing chain of lakes.

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  45. oa says:

    Now that’s the kind of marketing I’m talking about!

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  46. stillin says:

    I wanted to add that a while back, in the 1970’s and into the early 1980’s, it was very, very cheap to live up here. No longer the case. The post about how great the schools are, it is how great they may have been. Not now. Go sub in one and get back to me. Also, once the prisons came, our whole population changed. I think I’ll head west, coming home for a week will be plenty.

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  47. mervel says:

    It is fascinating to me the wide variety of economic experiences. The North Country stretches from St. Lawrence County to Clinton County.

    The experiences one has and sees in the Seaway Valley in places like Ogdensburg and Massena or farther out on Gouvernour or Fowler seem to have very little in common with the experiences you may have in Saranac Lake or Lake Placid.

    My wife and I make an ok family income a little under 95 between the two of us and we are fine we love it here. But if one of us lost our job it would be a problem.

    But as far as black flies and cold and some isolation, I think that is part of the deal, every good place has those kind of things. I mean you think we have bug problems, try Alaska in the Spring and early summer. But you know if we get rid of the black flies maybe we should get rid of the bears they can be dangerous and maybe we should get rid of deer, we are always hitting them, and on and on.

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  48. Larry says:

    Why don’t more people live here? Whatever the reason, I am grateful. In fact, we could probably get along with a few less.

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  49. Will Doolittle says:

    I’ll take you up on the drink sometime. As for moving back, it’s hard for me to imagine that, unless it’s as a retiree. The youngest of my kids, sadly, will be moving along themselves in a couple of years, so unless I start over (No!) I won’t be sending any more kids to SL schools. But it is heartening to hear people defending and bragging about Saranac Lake, and I did notice the ice rink was looking good this past winter.

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  50. Pete Klein says:

    Silver Fox, everything you dislike about the Adirondacks is what I love about the Adirondacks.
    You couldn’t pay me enough money to get me to move to Florida or Texas. I might consider Michigan’s UP or out west if it were high enough to get some snow and cold weather.
    Unemployment? By mid summer Hamilton County will have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.
    Jobs? I have never worked for the government unless you count the US Navy.
    My wife and I moved here when the last two of our three kids were in school. One was in his first year of college.
    Has it been a struggle? Sure but the two who finished school here remain here and have jobs. One has seen her daughters just graduate with honors from college and both are going on to do graduate studies. I guess they all got a pretty good education from the local high school.
    My wife is now retired while I continue to work for a private company and have a part-time job, otherwise known as Social Security.
    Hopefully I can continue to work until I drop dead. Why? Because I like to work, so much so I am adverse to even taking a vacation.

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