Local officials have expressed concern after learning that Hamilton County's population decreased more than 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, the biggest drop per capita in the state and one of the worst in the Northeast.
Overall, the population of the county decreased by 543 residents, from 5,379 to 4,836, the U.S. Census said.
"It is disappointing that any of our counties would lose such a large percentage," said U.S. Rep. Bill Owens of Plattsburgh, whose district includes Hamilton County and most of the Adirondack Park.
The Speculator Department Store, one of the few retail businesses in woodsy Hamilton County, is shown in 2009. The county lost 10 percent of its population in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census.
(Photo — Bill Trojan, The Leader-Herald)
William Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, said that although a decrease was expected, the numbers reported last week were surprising. He attributed the loss to younger people leaving the Adirondack Park at a dramatic rate.
Farber said population estimates showed there was a downward spiral, and the reduction in high school class sizes supported that. He said all the town supervisors would agree that the area is losing young families.
Farber said there are not a lot of opportunities for private economic development in Hamilton County, and with the downsizing in schools and prisons and state agencies, the local taxpayers have difficulty sustaining the area's public facilities and services.
By the #s
Hamilton County lost 543 residents between the 2000 census and the 2010 count - a decrease of more than 10 percent. Below is breakdown by town and year:
(Source: U.S. Census)
Owens said the county needs to concentrate on bringing high-speed Internet access to the area and increasing the forestry and tourism industries. He recently introduced legislation to expand broadband Internet access into rural communities in an effort to increase population and job creation.
The town of Morehouse lost 43 percent of its population, dropping from 151 to 86. In the decade between 1990 and 2000, its population had increased. Lake Pleasant lost nearly 11 percent from 2000 to 2010, dropping from 876 residents to 781, and Benson lost 4 percent. Speculator lost 7 percent of its population, or 24 people, and Wells lost 63 residents, a drop of 8 percent.
Two towns each saw a population increase of 11 people. Arietta increased from 293 residents to 304, a gain of 4 percent. Hope's population grew from 392 to 403, or 3 percent, continuing an upward trend from 1990.
Indian Lake lost 119 residents, and Inlet lost 73 people between 2000 and 2010.
Barbara Cook is a reporter for the Leader-Herald of Gloversville.