The villages of Lake Placid and Tupper Lake saw decreases in population, according to figures released last week from the 2010 U.S. Census, but the town that surrounds Lake Placid gained people while Tupper Lake's town lost them.
Tupper Lake village saw a 6.8 percent decrease, losing 268 people from 3,935 in 2000 to 3,667 in 2010. The town of Tupper Lake (which was called the town of Altamont in 2000) lost 166 people, or 2.7 percent.
Local historian and former Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce director Jon Kopp said it's a trend that has been going on for the past 30 years.
"It gets harder and harder," Kopp said. "A lot of people just move out. And there's no jobs. If you're 17 or 18 years old, where are you going to work?"
Village Mayor Mickey Desmarais said the drop in population will likely continue unless there is new growth and development in the village of Tupper Lake.
"Until we get some development, until we get broadband (Internet) here, I think this is what we're going to see," he said. "I know there's a lot of people who want to live here, but until we start getting some development here, it's tough."
Kopp said part of the problem for the entire region is that there is too much reliance on state-run facilities to provide jobs.
"Let's face it: The state is what drives the economy," Kopp said. "Sunmount, the DEC, ORDA, the state prison system - I don't know what would happen if any of them closed down.
"What we need is more diversified communities."
In Tupper Lake specifically, the Sunmount center for the developmentally disabled and criminally insane provides a gigantic proportion of local employment.
Desmarais said that although the decrease in population is noticeable, he doesn't put all of his faith in the federal count.
"I'm not a firm believer in the Census data," he said. "There's just a huge margin for error."
The Census shows the towns to the north and south of Tupper Lake - Waverly, Santa Clara and Long Lake - also losing population last decade, while those to the east and west, Harrietstown and Piercefield, posted gains.
The Olympic Village lost 117 people in the past decade, a 4.4 percent drop from 2,638 in the year 2000 to 2,521 in 2010. But it isn't certain how much the Lake Placid area changed; that number of people may have just shifted outside the village limits.
The town of North Elba, which completely surrounds Lake Placid and also includes the hamlet of Ray Brook and about a third of the village of Saranac Lake, gained 296 people, or 3.4 percent between the 2000 and 2010 Census counts. It's unknown at this point which parts of the town gained the most, but it is known that Saranac Lake as a whole - which also laps into the towns of Harrietstown and St. Armand - gained 358 people, or 7.2 percent.
Mayor Craig Randall said he hasn't yet taken a detailed look at the Census figures but pointed out that they may not reflect short-term residents who have second homes in the area.
"The village and greater Lake Placid area has seen much real estate growth over the past 10 to 15 years," he said. "The Census data may be impacted by a significant second-home population versus permanent residents."
Nevertheless, Randall said the question of declining population should be a concern for Lake Placid and the region.
"If the village is truly on a decline, we do need to look at that and what exactly it means for the village in the long-term view," he said.