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A very good start

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The village of Potsdam took a vital first step last week in enhancing its riverfront.

New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales joined Potsdam Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis, Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins and other community leaders at a groundbreaking ceremony held Wednesday at Ives Park. The event marked the beginning of a long-term project to improve the park, which overlooks Raquette River.

This is the first phase of the village’s Downtown and Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which had been in the works since 2009 and approved last year. The goal of the 10-year, $2.6 million project is to attract more people to Potsdam by making substantial improvements along Raquette River and in the downtown.

“If we could get more people up to the north country, they will fall in love with it and come back again and again,” Mr. Perales said Wednesday.

The initial phase of the long-range plan entails improving Ives Park. These enhancements will include widening and extending the riverside walkway, planting vegetation along the river to discourage geese, installing new lighting, and building a floating dock for use as a canoe and kayak launch.

This part of the overall project is estimated to cost about $250,000. Potsdam will fund $50,000, primarily in equipment use and in-kind services rather than directly putting up cash.

The other $200,000 is coming from state funds through its Regional Economic Development Council. Additional support will come from the Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, overseen by the New York State Department of State, Office of Communities and Waterfronts.

Another initiative being undertaken in Potsdam complements what village officials are doing to reinvigorate the downtown.

Under Collins’s leadership, Clarkson University recently began work on the second phase of a multimillion dollar project to renovate and reopen the university’s historic downtown campus buildings.

Old Main, Clarkson’s oldest academic building but unused for years, will house research facilities for the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. A subsidiary of Clarkson, the institute uses 40 solar-powered monitoring stations to gather water-quality information along the Hudson River. It will be the north country’s first “green data center.”

Clarkson has a need for more residential housing, and part of Snell Hall will serve this function along with Congdon House. Other plans for Snell Hall include hosting the Regional Arts and Interactive Learning Project, a collaboration between the St. Lawrence County Council and the North Country Children’s Museum.

Potsdam is making a bold move toward bettering its future by enhancing the village’s waterfront and downtown. Seaside communities have a terrific edge in offering recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike, and Potsdam is in a unique position with a major park right along Raquette River.

This plan will take time to complete as sources of funding will have to be identified for different phases. In a tough economic climate, some aspects may be more difficult to carry out than others.

But the presence of Mr. Perales at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony was a great sign. It shows that the state is serious about helping communities in the north country like Potsdam improve what they have to offer and market their assets to more people.

The state should assist Potsdam with its plan in whatever way possible. And people should take advantage of the enhanced facilities as these exciting projects move forward.

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