Monday, July 14, 2008

An Adirondack Sunset?

The Adirondack Park is one of the glories of New York State. But if tourists like me can't get afford to get there, and the locals who live there can't afford to drive to work, a shadow is thrown over the complex blend of seasonal tourists and full-time residents that shapes the Park's economy. And that's exactly the problem posed by the recent rise in gasoline prices.

Let's start with the locals. The Glens Falls Post Star recently did a valuable service by running an article on commuters in the North Country and how they're coping with the high fuel costs. The growth in bicycle use and bus ridership are good things in and of themselves, but workers who have to drive long distances to work (a plumber summoned to a distant job, for example) inevitably feel a bite in their paycheck.

High fuel prices come on top of a problem described to me more than a year ago by my guide on a backcountry skiing trip: the need to make long commutes to find affordable housing in the Adirondacks. The growth in the purchase or construction of second homes in the Adirondacks over the past decade or so, my guide explained, has driven up housing costs. For him, that meant moving to a less expensive house on the fringe of the Adirondaccks and driving at least 45 minutes to work. I've heard similar stories from waitresses at The Hedges, a lodge we visit in the summer.

I can afford the cost of filling the gas tank on my rented car once every winter and summer for my trips to the Adirondacks, but the locals there are already feeling a pinch. And if high fuel costs reduce the number of tourists heading to the North Country, that means fewer jobs and more hardships for folks up there. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. We need rational energy policies that promote sustainable ways of life for city people and country folks alike.

Blue Mountain Lake Sunset. Photo by Max Snyder.

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