Who would have thought that a train, in this day and age, would have such an impact on an Adirondack community? With passenger service discontinued in many sections of the Adirondack Park more than 40 years ago, the new passenger train connection between North Creek and Saratoga Springs has given us cause for celebration.
It also brings added responsibility. As many in the tourist industry know, a lot of work needs to be done before we see the economic rewards that come with the Saratoga & North Creek Railway. It requires new services, new infrastructure and a new way of thinking. The way North Creek did business two years ago is already outdated, for this is a railroad town once again.
North Creek has been in the hospitality industry for more than a century. And having a tourist train — with the Upper Hudson River Railroad — gave this community a lot of experience with train enthusiasts. But the Saratoga & North Creek Railway is in a different league and gives North Creek more opportunities.
Not only is the railway a tourist attraction, offering scenic day trips to points south, it is now connected to Amtrak passenger service at Saratoga Springs, linking it to a potentially lucrative market in New York City. And the railway is expected to create jobs here after it begins hauling ore out of the Tahawus mine in Newcomb.
We’ve seen the North Creek Business Alliance lead the charge and make improvements already, creating new events, establishing concierge services and new signage at the train station, forming partnerships to provide local transportation for train travelers, fostering a can-do attitude, and working with chamber, town, county and state officials to re-build North Creek as a modern, four-season resort town.
But there’s more work to be done, and it’s going to take the entire community — not just the Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce, North Creek Business Alliance and government officials — to pull it off. It will take all the not-for-profits, businesses, schools and ordinary citizens, both year-round and seasonal.
Now that the Saratoga & North Creek Railway features daily service to the North Creek train station, the community is relying more on businesses and attractions to stay open seven days a week instead of five. While it’s not an easy transition, it’s essential for the success of this town.
It’s a welcome wake-up call and one that is well overdue. After all, we’ve had tourists pass through here in their cars for decades.
In order for this to work — establishing North Creek as a bona fide four-season resort destination — all tourists need to find things to do and places to shop and eat during their stay, no matter the day of the week or their mode of transportation.
For business owners and attraction managers, maintaining the community as a seven-day-a-week community requires additional resources; it costs more to keep the lights on and to staff the store for two additional days. If a restaurant needs one or two days off a week, stagger the days off with other restaurants so there are places to eat any day of the week. The same goes for shops.
For not-for-profit attractions, it requires more volunteers. The Tannery Pond Community Center, North Creek Depot Museum and Owens House are all examples of places that currently need docents to watch the buildings and help visitors learn more about the exhibits. If enough docents aren’t found, hours of operation would be cut, and that’s not good business.
We encourage people to sign up and volunteer, for one of these organizations or other places, such as the Business Alliance golf cart program, which serves people who need transportation from the train station to the business district.
By being in the tourism industry, North Creek is continually inviting people here to our home in the Adirondacks to stay and play. We are in the hospitality business, and like any good host, we want to show people a good time, no matter what day of the week they show up. As a tourist town, that is our obligation.
Thanks to the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, we have a real opportunity to re-invent this town and make it more successful than it’s been in decades. Yet, we shouldn’t be satisfied with just being a tourist town. What’s wrong with adding industry along the freight line? We’re not sure the economic recovery of the Upper Hudson Region is possible without a diverse range of business activity, but tourism is a great start.