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Water access, quality in focus at Chaumont Corridor revitalization meeting

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CLAYTON — The future of the Chaumont River Corridor could mean greater public access to the waterways, bike paths, infrastructure improvements and preserved fishing opportunities based on community input during a riverfront revitalization meeting May 22.

About 33 community members from Clayton, Lyme, Orleans, Depauville, LaFargeville and Chaumont were invited to a forum to discuss projects and a vision for the waterfront region’s future.

“We aren’t making any decisions here tonight,” said Matthew S. Ingalls, principal of Ingalls Planning & Design, Fairport. The company was hired to identify funding sources; prepare an implementation plan for priority projects and large-scale activities; evaluate potential uses for underused or abandoned structures in the communities and develop a management and marketing plan.“We are here to get a positive outlook on what you want to see for the future of the Chaumont River Corridor,” Mr. Ingalls said.

The meeting at the Clayton Opera House included information on the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, a presentation of a map of the region and an opportunity to meet the committee.

Mr. Ingalls said the villages received a $15,775 grant from the state and a matching contribution from the villages and hamlets of $15,775 for the strategy development. A majority of the funding, $22,000, was used to hire Ingalls Planning & Design. He said they hope to use information collected from community forums to come up with a plan in the next eight to nine months.

Once they’ve developed project goals, Mr. Ingalls said they can develop a draft plan to use for state consolidated funding applications next year. That funding will be used to pay for the projects.

Those who attended the meeting were broken up into three groups and asked to answer three questions: where is the town now, where do the residents want to go and how could they get there?

“What we heard was a majority of people wanted better public access to the water, to improve water quality and improve infrastructure and buildings in the hamlets and villages,” Mr. Ingalls said.

Alicia M. Dewey, Clayton, a member of the joint revitalization committee, said in her group the members wanted to make sure the natural beauty remains the revitalization focus.

“Ecological assets should be protected,” Ms. Dewey said. “It would be great for this area to be known for its beauty.”

Kenneth J. Knapp, Clayton, said the opinion of his group was to encourage the public to use available access points to the river, mostly to preserve the river. He said if the river’s quality worsens, efforts to revitalize the towns and facilities that host visitors won’t help anyone. “We want to be known as a vibrant community connected by the water,” Mr. Knapp said.

Mr. Ingalls started the meeting with a slide show of different images from towns and cities and asked participants to rate them on a scale. The slide show included images of car dealerships, parking lots, trail heads, long stretches of roads and grass, boat docks and launch sites.

Several residents said they liked the towns just the way they were, and no one should change them or use state funding for such projects. Others wanted to look at what happened before.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to look back,” said Duane C. Hazelton, Clayton. “There were businesses here before.”

Mr. Ingalls said the money already has been designated by the state, and if the community doesn’t take advantage of the revitalization grants, another might.

“You might not think changes need to be made now,” Mr. Ingalls said. “But maybe one day down the road you might want to try and sell your land to someone who might want better access to Internet lines or better sidewalks.” He said the projects don’t have to change how people live now but could invite a new generation of residents and visitors.

Ms. Dewey said based on community input from the forum, the committee will return with more focused ideas to present at another forum in the next few months. “You folks will be invited every step of the way,” Mr. Ingalls said. The community will decide how the grant money is spent.

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