During a meeting Friday Dec. 2 of area business proprietors, Clarke Dunham (foreground), owner of the Railroads on Parade attraction in Pottersville, proposes ways to boost business activity in the towns of Chester and Horicon. Don Butler (rear), owner of the Panther Mountain Inn, listens to Dunham's ideas.
With a mission of boosting local commerce and tourism, local citizens representing area enterprises are forming a new group, tentatively called the Tri-Lakes Business Alliance.
About a dozen people interested in launching the organization met Friday Dec. 2 at the Panther Mountain Inn in Chestertown.
The organization is to represent business interests in the municipalities of Chestertown, Brant Lake, Pottersville, and Adirondack, including the settlements surrounding Friends Lake, Loon Lake and Brant Lake.
The tentative goal of the group is to generate more business activity in the towns of Chester and Horicon. Objectives to accomplish the goal were discussed at the Dec. 2 meeting.
The momentum for forming the group occurred this fall after four businesses in Chestertown closed operations – Becky's Bloomers floral shop, Adirondack Ural motorcycle dealiership, Anywheres Diner and Bagel Girls Deli. These four followed the closure of a dozen others in recent years.
Initial ideas to revive commerce in the North Warren area proposed Dec. 2 include establishing shuttle services to the train depots in North Creek and Riparius as well as communities in southern Warren County, pursuing grants that provide incentives for businesses to locate here, lining up loans and grants for downtown building renovations and upgrades, and lobbying local government for progress on infrastructure, including constructing a municipal sewer system for downtown Chestertown.
Without such a sewer system, restaurants are unable -- under state health laws -- to start up new operations in town.
Other ideas included lobbying state officials to provide exemptions to restrictive and expensive mandates and building codes that now hamper commecial development.
One idea discussed at the Nov. 2 meeting was making Pottersville more pedestrian-friendly by utilizing traffic-calming strategies such as constructing berms or islands to keep trucks and vehicles from speeding through the hamlet.
Another idea was for the town of Chester to pass a law that would prohibit truckers from using Jake Brakes – which make a loud chattering noise – when passing through Pottersville and/or other hamlets in town.
One of the business owners offering proposals was Don Butler of the Panther Mountain Inn. He noted that the group would likely be similar to the North Creek Business Alliance, which has been successful in boosting commercial activity in that hamlet by providing shuttle services to transport train riders and skiers downtown from the train depot and the Gore Mountain Ski Center.
Joel Beaudin, one of the partners in North Creek's Copperfield Inn and a member of the North Creek alliance, noted the importance of transportation – how the hamlet has been re-energized through the use of busses and golf carts to connect tourists with retails shops and restaurants.
He said that a survey conducted recently among train tourists indicated nearly half of all visitors, primarily from the Capital Region, had not been aware of the existence of North Creek prior to the train ride.
The key to building robust commerce downtown, he said, was offering attractions and services that prompt visitors to stay in town overnight.
Butler and Beaudin both noted that while in years past the streets of North Creek had been virtually empty on weekdays, this summer it had been teeming with tourists when the train arrived – thanks to the expertise of the new railway operator, Iowa Pacific.
Among the suggestions raised at the Tri-Lakes alliance meeting were passing out tourism leaflets promoting the Chester-Brant Lake region during the train trips from Saratoga to North Creek.
Another idea was providing more amenities for snowmobilers and offering transportation services to meet their needs.
Clarke Dunham of Railroads on Parade in Pottersville, suggested that the group devise and offer presentations to tourism groups and organizations extolling the attractions and amenities in the North Warren area.
Greg Beckler, owner of Natural Stone Bridge & Caves in Pottersville, said the Dec. 2 meeting of those seeking to form a business-boosting group had been productive.
”This was a good first step in getting people together and moving things forward,” he said.