Gail Brill reports to the Saranac Lake Village Board Monday, July 9 about her experiences as an Adirondack Ambassador, welcoming train tourists at the Union Depot arriving from Lake Placid.
Tourists taking the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Lake Placid will most likely run into an Adirondack Ambassador when they get off the train at the Union Depot in Saranac Lake.
Volunteer ambassadors such as Gail Brill have been welcoming visitors at the station on Depot Street to help orient them and point them toward the downtown business district. This program provides a needed service, according to Brill, who reported to the Saranac Lake Village Board during their Monday, July 9 meeting.
“The people get off the train, and they don’t really know where they are, and I’m so happy to meet them and welcome them,” Brill said. “The first thing I say is, ‘Welcome to Saranac Lake. What would you like to do today?’ And I have a basket of information with a map.”
Brill walks people out to the front of the depot and shows them Depot Street.
“And that’s where I show them on the map how to get to downtown. It’s only a 6-minute walk,” Brill said. “The first day I was there was the Fourth of July. There must have been 30 people around me, listening to me talk about Saranac Lake and where to go and what to do, where to eat and how to get there. People loved it.”
When people get off the train, it’s hard to tell that downtown is so close, she said. Meeting the train around 11:45 a.m., ambassadors have the opportunity to tell people they can spend the day in Saranac Lake and catch the later train back to Lake Placid, which leaves at 3:30 p.m.
Brill had some ideas to make the program better. For example, the ambassadors could hold a sign that says, “Ask me about Saranac Lake.”
Mayor Clyde Rabideau said he and Brill should compare notes since he was also an Adirondack Ambassador at the train station.
“When people were getting off the train, as I was handing things out trying to answer questions, people were walking by me, and I couldn’t talk to them,” Rabideau said. “And the ones I did talk to started walking away and they didn’t really know how to get to downtown.”
Brill shared her experience of finding people to talk to.
“I would kind of hang around for a while,” Brill said. “When they came out of the gift shop, I would approach them, and when I saw clusters of people, I would walk up to them … I don’t want to say I chased them down, but I walked up to them and said, ‘Do you want to know what to do in Saranac Lake today?’”
Rabideau said train patrons had a tough time finding the sidewalk to go downtown and promised to work on better signage for people coming off the train.
Brill suggested painting footprints from the train to the sidewalk leading to downtown Saranac Lake. And the mayor liked the idea.
“Allie (Pelletieri) and I will do that this weekend,” Rabideau said, volunteering his fellow Village Board member.
“I’ll help you,” Trustee Pelletieri replied. “I think I’m free this weekend.”
Brill said an ambassador program at the Ice Palace during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival would also be a good idea.
A similar ambassador program was established this year in North Creek, where the newly formed Saratoga & North Creek Railway operates daily runs between Saratoga Springs and North Creek. North Creek Business Alliance members built a concierge booth at the train station this spring, and it is manned by volunteers, including former Johnsburg Town Supervisor and current Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner Bill Thomas.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates a 20-mile round-trip scenic train between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake during the spring, summer and fall. It also has operations in Utica and Thendara.