Consensus from this year’s Adirondack Common Ground Alliance forum is that a younger and more diverse group of new residents will be key to the future success of Adirondack Park communities.

The Alliance’s findings resulted from small group discussions with more than 200 Adirondack residents, educators, business owners, community leaders, and local government officials representing 56 different communities during a two-day virtual forum

CGA 2020 collageThe Northern Forest Center facilitated and helped design the forum and will continue working with Adirondack communities on a follow-up strategy to Attract a New Generation of Adirondack Residents. The outcomes will also provide the platform for the 2020 Blueprint for the Blue Line, a  list of policy recommendations to share with Albany leaders.

A full recap of the July 14-15 forum, including presentations and video, is available at

“The Common Ground Alliance should be a model across the state and across the country. The work that you’re doing to bring people together in a way that allows each voice to be heard provides a powerful platform to move our communities forward,” said Judy Drabicki, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation executive deputy commissioner, who joined the closing session. NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos participated in the forum.

Highlights of the 2020 Forum findings include:

  • Young people living in the Adirondacks are making incredible contributions to shaping the future of the Park, and were dynamic voices as part of the Forum. A third of the participants in the forum were under 45. Forum participants noted striking contributions that young people are making across multiple sectors, including business and entrepreneurism, local government, non-profits and the arts.
  • Communities can use simple, low-cost to take quick action toward becoming more attractive to and welcoming to potential new residents, such as grassroots efforts to welcome new community members, local initiatives to make community information about events and jobs more accessible and forming networks and affinity groups to provide new ways to build community.
  • Community-driven steps can build on existing models. Examples include efforts underway to make quality rental housing more accessible; partnerships with the Adirondack Diversity Institute to ensure  communities are safe and welcoming for all; and investments in multiple communities to make sure that authentic, walkable downtowns are connected to nearby recreational assets and amenities.

“We were excited to bring our experience from other rural communities across the Northern Forest to the Common Ground Alliance forum this year,” said Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center. “The work that community members and local leaders engaged in at this year’s Forum is an important step to position Adirondack communities to address our challenges and successfully attract new residents.”

“This year’s forum allowed us to look comprehensively at solving one of the region’s biggest challenges – how do we create more welcoming communities for younger populations,” said Zoë Smith, a member of the event’s organizing team member. “CGA will use the results of the forum to identify solutions that can be moved forward with our elected leaders in Albany.”

The Common Ground Alliance formed in 2007 to identify opportunities for dialogue among diverse, and at times, competing stakeholders looking to seek collaborative action. The Alliance promotes inclusiveness, mutual respect, transparency, candor and trust to guide open discussions and foster a productive exchange of idea across a multitude of viewpoints.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in the Common Ground Alliance can contact the organization and sign up to join its newsletter at

2020 Common Ground Alliance Convenes

The Common Ground Alliance  (CGA) — a diverse network of people dedicated to addressing issues that affect the Adirondack Park, its residents, communities, and institutions— held its annual pan-Adirondack forum last week to discuss regional topics and look for common-ground priorities to advance for the betterment of the region. But instead of gathering as usual in person, participants met in a virtual forum to engage on this year’s theme of “Attracting a New Generation of Residents to the Adirondacks.”

Another change this year was that the CGA organizing team asked the Northern Forest Center to partner with the Alliance and help design this year’s forum. With nearly 200 people registered from communities across – and outside of – the Adirondack Park, the virtual forum promised to be an unprecedented event for the region.

Center Vice President Joe Short provided context for the forum with a presentation on Demographic Trends in the Adirondacks & Northern Forest, followed by a conversation featuring Nicky Hylton-Patterson of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and Bill Farber of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors about cultural consciousness and creating welcoming communities. Both can be viewed online.

After the plenary, participants broke out into groups organized by geography to explore themes related to the idea of attracting new residents in the context of local conditions and local opportunities. “We designed this exercise as a chance to take a fresh look at our communities through a process of self-reflection,” said Leslie Karasin, the Center’s Adirondack project manager. Center staff and local leaders facilitated small group discussions.

“With the Center's leadership, we were able to do a great job focusing on what it takes to attract new people to the Adirondacks,” said Cali Brooks, president and CEO of the Adirondack Foundation, who served on the organizing team for the event. “I'm confident that this year's CGA will put forward some key steps we can all use to ensure growing and vital communities, and I anticipate there will be several areas where intellectual and financial capital could make a dramatic impact.”

As in years past, the Common Ground Alliance will produce a “Blueprint for the Blueline” – a document that identifies legislative and budget priorities for state government.  In addition, the Center will use outcomes from this year’s forum to inform a strategy the Center is developing on attracting a new generation of residents to the Adirondacks.

“Many voices contributed to a rich dialogue at this year’s forum,” said Center President Rob Riley, “and we’re excited to translate some of these ideas into a strategy to inform Park communities as they build for the future.”

This year’s CGA forum concludes Thurs., July 23 with a report-out session at 2 pm that will include reflections by Rob Riley and Leslie Karasin on opportunities for communities to put ideas from this year’s forum into practice.  A link to watch the report-out session is available on the Common Ground Alliance website