State largesse should get spread around Adirondacks
The Cuomo administration has been pouring money into the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid, which is great for Lake Placid, the Adirondack village with the least need for help from the state.
In the Adirondack Park, as elsewhere, the rich get richer, and everyone else limps along.
Most towns and villages in the Adirondacks are in a sorry state — population dwindling, school enrollments falling, businesses closing. It’s not a depression but a chronic quasi-recession, in which local people keep their hopes up and now and then a developer or a business comes in that shows some promise, but over time, nothing gets better.
Tupper Lake is a good example. It’s a beautiful village with a proud logging history and a tradition of coming together for community causes.
For several seasons, citizens raised money and worked shifts for no pay to open Big Tupper Ski Area, but it proved too big a job for volunteers. A development that was going to bring in seasonal residents and renovate and run the ski center has fallen apart, so that piece of the local economy is missing now, like much of the logging and so much else.
A petition started locally is asking the state, through ORDA, to take over Big Tupper, and it should.
The state has announced in the last couple of years tens of millions of dollars in new funding to improve the Olympic venues in Lake Placid and the state ski centers, Whiteface and Gore.
All those millions mostly benefit a small group of people who run the tourism industry in Lake Placid. A larger group works in the village’s hotels and restaurants, and you could say they “benefit,” too, but from jobs that don’t pay much nor, in many cases, offer health insurance coverage.
The Placid prosperity, such as it is, does not spill over into other communities. By the time you get to Tupper Lake, half an hour to the west, you don’t see a drop of it.
Bob Glennon, a longtime Adirondack environmentalist, recently wrote that Gov. Cuomo should put a little less money into the Olympic facilities and a little more into the Department of Environmental Conservation and, specifically, the state ranger force that patrols the High Peaks.
He’s right. The number of rangers is woefully inadequate to handle the huge increase of hikers in the Adirondacks.
While hundreds of thousands of tourists jam Lake Placid year-round, the hamlets of Hamilton County are vanishing, and right next door, Saranac Lake is struggling and Tupper Lake is wasting away.
The state cannot reverse large demographic or economic trends or convince people by the thousands to move to cold, remote villages in the Adirondacks.
But it can help the economy in places like Tupper Lake by doing things it does well, like running a ski resort. Big Tupper was a wonderful ski center when it was open — the rare place that combined some challenging trails with a lot of relatively easy terrain and a welcoming family atmosphere.
It also stays below freezing in Tupper Lake when places like West Mountain or even Gore are thawing. That matters in the age of global warming.
I’m from Saranac Lake, and I’m glad Gov. Cuomo has paid attention to that area of the state and sent some money up there. But spread it around — Lake Placid doesn’t need it all.