2037 E: Post “Big Government” Solutions
One size does not fill all for the Park. It’s just so big and diverse. Figuring out what works in each town is largely left to local leaders. There isn’t much of a “Park” identity. The Park is not one economic region and it’s natural that different areas have better success with tailored strategies.
Towns and villages make a variety of different bets. Many succeed and, of course, some fail. This approach appeals to local strengths and the Adirondack spirit that “we take care of our own”, which tends to stop at the Town line, not the Blue Line. There have been so many disappointments with big government efforts that Towns depend on local strengths and local government focus, although some towns partner on projects. With all the big State land purchases done, loud harangues against the State don’t get the traction they used to. Most people have moved on from the old debates, electing leaders that have a vision for the future of their communities. Overall, local communities survive by caring for their own, as they always have.
An infusion of private capital into the stronger towns is invested in housing, retail and office space. Private citizens contribute talent and money to infrastructure like broadband, as well as the arts. They want government help, but they don’t wait for it, or count on it. Land owners and towns spend on combatting invasives and cleaning up septic systems in order to protect land values and the recreation they cherish. Private groups like ADK do more to maintain trails and campgrounds. Areas with better amenities and health care attract new residents, mostly retired boomers. Poorer towns don’t do as well, and the gap widens.
The areas around the Park have actually grown much faster than other rural areas of the State, building on successes like Global Foundries and Laurentian Aerospace. The Park towns near the edge leveraged that success and encouraged sub-supplier businesses to build there and workers to reside there. Other towns leveraged special amenities like Lake Placid’s Olympic facilities, Old Forge’s View Arts center and Tupper Lake’s Wild Center, or special geography like the High Peaks and the western lake chains. Ski resorts with condos work in some areas, gateways to deep wilderness in others. Some towns leverage nearby educational institutions to attract entrepreneurs as well as the cultural amenities that students support. The most common theme is to leverage the Park as an asset and use balanced regulation to preserve that advantage.
But some areas did not thrive. Certain parts of the Park just didn’t have the assets needed for success in the 2020s and the government didn’t have the money to create them. The interior of the Park, isolated far from transportation, remains depressed, just barely hanging on. Interior tourism largely consists of day-trippers and tent campers. With interior lake fronts fully built already, there isn’t much new construction.
There is bottoms-up, opportunistic work on consolidation of government functions, particularly business operations of towns, villages and schools where the savings opportunities are obvious, but none of it is forced by the State. The Local Government Review Board works more closely with the APA, has more say in decisions, and actually nominates three commissioners. More towns have professional planners. Clarification and simplification of APA jurisdiction and process have facilitated investment in the Park, since investors have less uncertainty about delays or potential approval. Overall a pragmatic, can-do attitude prevails, getting things done where you can and not waiting for the ultimate solution.