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Scenic-area survey results examined in Clayton

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CLAYTON — A committee working on creating a designated scenic area along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario reported it is making progress with the application.

The Thousand Islands Regional Assessment Project Advisory Committee hosted a public forum on Monday at the Clayton Opera House to discuss input submitted by community members on what makes the region attractive and worthy to be the third region in the state to receive Scenic Area of Statewide Significance designation.

“We’re definitely still working on this, it’s a work in progress,” said Harry L. Dodson, landscape architect and president of Dodson & Flinker Inc,. The firm is working with 10 communities and subcommittees to apply for the designations. Mr. Dodson and his associates will use the data from the study to create a Thousand Islands Regional Assessment document to be reviewed by the state.

A Scenic Area of Statewide Significance grant would help the area become a more viable tourism destination. Designated scenic areas are coastal locations that possess unique, highly scenic landscapes that are accessible to the public. The project includes the promotion of waterfront towns — Cape Vincent, Clayton, Alexandria, Morristown, Orleans and Hammond — and the villages of Cape Vincent, Clayton, Alexandria Bay and Morristown.

At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Dodson presented a slide show to the more than 25 residents showing several maps that would divide the towns into different sections. He said some areas with more scenic waterfront could be more likely to receive the designation. If only portions of the Chaumont River Corridor were designated, he said, it would still have an influence for surrounding towns to use for promotion of area activities.

Mr. Dodson outlined results from an online survey taken by more than 150 residents to identify what facets of the waterfront and inland landscape were most visually appealing. A variety of sample images were presented and survey takers were asked to rate on a high-to-low scale how they ranked the image. From this survey, Mr. Dodson said, the highest ranked images were those with views of the waterfront.

Barbara Kendall, coastal research specialist at the state Department of State, said the advisory committee is not done collecting information from community members.,More photos are available on the project’s website.

Mr. Dodson said the scenic area designation won’t change anything for the residents but would protect and promote the assets of the region.

“If damage is done to these resources, then there will be nothing to promote,” Mr. Dodson said.

Mr. Dodson assured residents at the meeting in Clayton that the designation wouldn’t dramatically change how local regulations were handled. It would still be the responsibility of each town to determine land-use regulations.

“The first reason you might want to do it in the beginning if a big state or federal project comes in for a power plant, it gives another layer of review called coastal consistency, and gives it more scrutiny for visual aspects,” Ms. Kendall said. “Federal or State action gets more review and attention to make sure your special area isn’t visually harmed.”

Pamela Winchester, Hammond, said after reviewing the survey, the greatest assets of the region weren’t represented in the photos.

“I don’t think they represented the area at all,” Mrs. Winchester said. “The bare bones aren’t there.”

Ms. Kendall said the photos, though minimal, were not the only visual aspects to be submitted,

She said people can submit photos from different seasons, photos showing recreational activities and more.

A $75,000 matching grant the North Country Regional Economic Development Council awarded the group last year was used to hire Mr. Dodson to create a Thousand Islands Regional Assessment document that will be reviewed by the state.

Ms. Kendall said anyone who would like to contribute to the project by submitting photos or promotional opportunities can make submissions at the website.

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