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Partnership seen as key for Thousand Islands region development

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — If economic progress will happen in Alexandria and around the Thousand Islands region, some say it will have to come through cooperation and partnership.

“We need to identify ourselves as a region,” said Doug A. Tullouch, one of the leaders of a discussion Thursday night during a regional economic development meeting at Bonnie Castle Resort. “We have to look at ourselves on a bigger scale.”

The meeting drew about 25 people. The winding, sometimes off-topic discussion covered a wide range of issues, from potential businesses that would fit the area to the opening date of Boldt Castle to Ogdensburg’s airport expansion.

Among the ideas pitched during the meeting as good fits for the area are an indoor water park, a performing arts center or some kind of college campus branch that would bring in students during months when the area is usually quiet.

Ronald G. Thomson, recently appointed town councilman and owner of Uncle Sam Boat Tours, said the area would be better served if the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority would open Boldt Castle earlier in the year.

“You’ve got a huge attraction, and it sits there,” he said. When people come to the area and find it closed, he said “they get back in their car, and leave.”

Craig S. Garlock said he would like to see a more pedestrian-focused area, like those he saw while traveling in Europe.

“There was room to put things that are nice to look at,” he said.

Paul C. Cole, owner of Dock of the Bay, James Street, said it was key to draw outside investment and grants.

“Where does the money come from?” he said. “That is the bottom line here.”

A comprehensive plan for the town is being developed, and one participant suggested it could provide the foundation for grant applications.

One possible benefit of a regional partnership between river area communities would be to draw some of the tens of thousands of people coming to the area through the soon-to-be-expanded Ogdensburg International Airport.

“That’s close enough to take a bus, or rent a car and spend a few days here,” Mr. Tullouch said.

The meeting also hit on some of the area’s weaknesses. Mr. Thomson said the lack of ports of entry into America by water was a major detriment to the region.

“If you want to come to the U.S. and do it legally, it’s not easy,” he said.

Among the actions the group looked to take for their next meeting, tentatively scheduled for June 12, is getting representation from village trustees and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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