In recent decades, life in the Adirondacks — particularly in the remote areas — has become challenging for year-round residents.
With traditional Adirondack-based industries hampered by competition from overseas and tightened government regulations, good-paying jobs have disappeared.
Our communities shrank due to limited employment opportunities. School enrollments diminished across the Adirondacks by more than 30 percent as families moved out to seek a more promising future.
These trends, confirmed several years ago by the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project report, raised alarm over how many Adirondack communities are threatened.
There is a prevailing force, however, that has been working in the opposite direction.
It’s a matter of exploring revolutionary approaches and devising out-of-the-box solutions to long-standing problems.
There are plenty of examples of how such an approach has proven successful.
This week, Newcomb Central School scheduled a dinner to celebrate their largest enrollment in 25 years — 101 students, a record in recent years. Only six years ago, their K-12 enrollment was 55, down from about 400 several decades ago.
Back in 2006, the school administrators, under the leadership of School Superintendent Clark “Skip” Hults, didn’t resign themselves to impending extinction.
Instead, they devised a program of recruiting international students who have traditionally sought out private schools in the U.S.
The program has been wildly successful, bringing additional income into the school district while enriching the educational experience for local children through boosted cultural diversity.
Based on the success of the program, the school administrators are now seeking to establish a dormitory, or secure student housing by the conversion of existing residences.
Such a move could boost the district’s revenue by $1 million, or about 20 percent, offering relief to local taxpayers.
The Newcomb district’s revolutionary thinking goes further than hosting international students and a residential program. The district is also drafting a program through which students can graduate from Newcomb Central with both a high school diploma and a two-year college degree.
Forty-four miles southeast, another example of ingenuity shows a lot of promise for remote Adirondack communities and their economic revival.
Broadband access — seen as crucial to tourism and economic development as well as local residents’ quality of life — has been regarded as economically unfeasible due to the burdensome cost of infrastructure needed to provide broadband for a meager population spread over mountainous terrain.
But in Thurman, town officials decided to shoulder some risks and innovate.
The town is partnering with a Chestertown-based entrepreneur to bring broadband to its 1,200 residents, most of whom rely on near-useless dial-up. The Thurman town board voted several weeks ago to commit $20,000 to testing cutting-edge “white space” technology which would broadcast data over unused frequencies traditionally reserved for analog television transmission.
The project, which has gained national attention, holds a promise of affordably connecting its citizens to the Internet, now seen as a virtual necessity of modern life.
While there’s a considerable amount that’s been accomplished in reviving our economies, more challenges lie ahead.
Most of our communities’ downtowns still host too many vacant buildings — idle primarily due to the high cost of heating and cooling as well as burdensome taxation.
While Chestertown is struggling with how to revive rows of empty storefronts, their town government is taking action on exploring ways of slashing the cost of heating its own facilities through the use of wood chips or pellets.Already, the town government has installed arrays of solar panels to provide electricity and cut its utility costs.
Such technologies could help efforts to revitalize our downtowns, experts have said.
All these examples demonstrate that innovative thinking can overcome the longstanding problems we face in the Adirondacks — and we at Denton Publications hail the practice.
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