NEWCOMB -- Adirondack residents are indeed relatively poor, aging and undereducated and the area is hemorrhaging local youth, or so are the findings of the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project which was released this week by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages.
"School enrollments in the park have decreased 329 students annually throughout the current decade," The APRAP states. " The equivalent of the loss of one Adirondack school district every 19 months."
Local officials are calling the release of the huge plethora of data as a seminal event in Adirondack history which will define debate and discourse within the park for generations to come.
"It's the basis for future Adirondack policy," Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board executive director Fred Monroe said June 9. "We tried to just focus on the facts and to draw as few conclusions as possible."
According to the APRAP the average median household income in the park is approximately $43,000 annually -- about $8,000 below the national average. Meanwhile, housing prices are skyrocketing in many tourist-driven communities, resulting in large portions of populations in the park's center who are ineligible to own homes by default.
Roughly 40 percent of private Adirondack parcels are owned by people with addresses outside of the Blue Line with housing prices being dictated by second-homeowners in many communities.
The largest employers in the park are correctional facilities, with public schools and municipal highway departments running close behind. Over 44 percent of Adirondack residents are employed in the public sector.
The median age of an Adirondack resident is 43 years of age, while New York State as a whole has an average population age of 35.5 years.
The report states, the Adirondack population mirrors the retirement communities of Western Florida and are some of the oldest in the nation.
In the past two decades Newcomb Central School District has lost over 84 percent of its student body. Concurrently, the median age of the town has spiked to 51.4 years of age, making it one of the oldest communities in the country.
Park-wide, student populations have declined 31 percent since 1970, while the number of teachers has increased about 34 percent.
After graduation, only 36.5 percent of in-park residents attend four-year colleges compared to 53.6 percent statewide. Nearly 13 percent of local high school graduates immediately enter the workforce, 7 percent over statewide totals.
"This data is essential in understanding the communities in the park," Monroe said.
The study states, 76 percent of in-park land is rendered unable to be developed after state holdings, easements and defined wetlands are accounted for.
New York State has direct ownership of 45 percent of the 5.8 million acres which comprise the park.
The 120 page study includes a CD-ROM which provides data from each of the 103 towns and villages sampled.
Other topics of considerable discussion include availability of technological infrastructure, unemployment rates -- which tend to spike in 'off seasons' -- and types of jobs available.
The total population of the park has doubled since 1950, but adjusted income levels have declined considerably. Most of the population increases are in towns which sit on the Blue Line.
The APRAP study included data provided by a 90 question survey, U.S. and state Census data and APA data. It was conducted by the LA Group of Saratoga at a cost of $93,000.
Throughout the study, a distinction is often made between municipalities wholly within the park and those only partially in the park.