The Keeseville Veterans Park
In Oct. 2011, a group of more than 60 people gathered with a single goal in mind—to revitalize Keeseville.
It’s now almost one year later, and the Revitalize Keeseville group is still going strong.
And, according to Steven Engelhart, the group’s unofficial leader, they’ve accomplished a lot.
“The farmers market is a good example,” Engelhart said. “It was really done by about two or three people here. This group has been instrumental in marketing it, getting people to attend it and in supporting it.”
Even though the Sept. 19 meeting only reeled in about a dozen people, everyone contributed to the conversation.
Despite the decrease in attendance—the meetings once packed the Grange Hall on Main Street in Keeseville with enthusiastic citizens—Engelhart isn’t concerned.
“There’s different ways people can contribute to what we’re trying to do than just attend meetings,” Engelhart said. “I’m pleased that for a relatively small group we’ve been able to advance five or six initiatives. Not all of them got done this year but all of them are moving forward.”
Engelhart added that many of the people who attended the recent meeting are committed to Revitalize Keeseville and have barely missed any of the group’s monthly meetings.
“The size of the group has definitely shrunk, but now there’s a hard-core, hard-working core, and we are still getting people added to our email string who want to know what’s going on,” Engelhart said.
There were some new faces at the meeting, too.
Michael Burgess, who moved to the area from Philadelphia in mid-July, saw a flier and decided to attend.
After the meeting, he commented that he is happy to live in an area where the people get involved with the community.
“It’s wonderful to see citizens coming out to engage in dialog and ideas to make Keeseville great,” Burgess said. “This meeting was very positive, and Keeseville certainly has a bright future.”
Looking toward that brighter future, attendees at the meeting discussed ways to draw more people into Keeseville, like improving signage throughout the village.
Engelhart noted that as many as 100,000 people visit Ausable Chasm every year, and called that statistic a “missed opportunity” for the village.
To that end, a bad reputation is something Revitalize Keeseville has been trying to change, but the recent death of Robert Rennie, 45, of Keeseville, which State Police have confirmed was a homicide, hasn’t helped.
The issue of safety was a major concern at the meeting and sparked a conversation about starting a neighborhood watch group in the village.
Neighborhood clean-up days, a fundraiser to raise money for new trash receptacles, benches and flower boxes downtown, and holiday decorations were also discussed as ways to create a friendlier, more welcoming Keeseville.
Engelhart urged people to “vote with their wallets” and support local businesses, and said that a buy local program and a renewed Keeseville website are two things Revitalize Keeseville should focus on in the future.
He also suggested attendees imagine a village with a thriving civic center, a place where people come to visit museums and artists flock to paint, perhaps by the river as it courses through downtown.
Engelhart’s vision included a busy downtown with restaurants and shops that could draw visitors from places like Lake Placid and Ausable Chasm, and he thinks it could happen soon.
“What I’m most proud about is I sense a change in the attitude of people about the village,” Engelhart said. “I think there’s been a subtle positive change around that, and that’s a very good thing. That can have all kinds of big spin-off effects.”
The next Revitalize Keeseville meeting will be held at the Grange Hall on Main Street in Keeseville on Oct. 24 at 5 p.m.
For more information, call Engelhart at 834-9328.