Change comes slow in small towns

Our daily lives are made up of myriad little routines and commonplace incidents, most of which never make it into the newspapers or news broadcasts. In a small town like Keene, it sometimes seems as if nothing much happened at all in 2016.

“I’m putting together a year in review story for the Enterprise, about Keene and Keene Valley,” I tell people. I explain that I’m looking for things that make a difference in their lives, but haven’t been in the news.

“What?” people say, looking as if my question has thrown them off balance. “Did you put in about Joe Pete Wilson Jr. being appointed the new town supervisor? Oh never mind, that’s right, I read about that in the paper.”

They proceed to hem and haw. “Let me get back to you on that,” they suggest, but then they don’t.

Of course, there have been exceptions. Patrick Walsh, owner and barista of SubAlpine Coffee, next to Keene Fitness in Keene Valley, gave me lots of ideas. His coffee shop opened in July 2015, and this past year has been establishing its own clientele and earning great reviews from Yelp, Sprudge, TripAdvisor and other critics who like good coffee.

This year, Patrick has invested in a solar electric system, and he told me that a lot of other people in town have too, both for residences and businesses.

Adirondack Realty is going solar.

As it happens, Apex Solar Power, a solar energy provider, is even now setting up shop next door to Big Crow Trading in Keene, and will be holding their grand opening Jan. 3.  

I could see how solar energy would be great in a place like Colorado, but looking out the window I didn’t see many hopeful signs for the Adirondacks. I learned that the solar energy collected during the summer goes to the power company NYSEG, and then NYSEG gives credits for it to be used against your electric bill during the year.

Change is gradual — sometimes so gradual you can’t see it, kind of like watching grass grow — but there has been change.

The Bark Eater Inn in Keene has reopened under new management. No horses anymore, but nice accommodations and trails.

Speaking of trails, the hiking trails in Keene’s High Peaks have been visited by record numbers of visitors to the area, and there is controversy about harm to the environment versus the bonus of tourist dollars for the area. Also, there is talk about the need to educate people who want to explore the wilderness but underestimate its vicissitudes, rapid weather changes and other dangers.

In 2016, the town of Keene had very little snow, until now, which suited some people but didn’t do much for our tourist economy. This winter is shaping up to be snowier.

The summer of 2016 was warm and dry, and the wild berry crop was not good. Keene Valley was rife with black bears seeking food. They are hibernating now.

This fall a little dog in Keene was grabbed by a coyote at 7:30 one morning while out for a walk with its owner. The owner tried to retrieve the dog, to no avail. This is one of the saddest pet stories I’ve heard.

The bridges in Keene and Keene Valley are now usable and free of obstacles, which is great for motorists and particularly for The Mountaineer store and its employees and customers.

I wrote about Lila, a Keene Valley dog who was a neighbor of the Mountaineer store until her recent death when she was hit by a car. I have now learned that Lila was friends with the bridge workers who parked their vehicles and ate lunch across the state road from her house. This surprised me somewhat, since Lila was protective of what she considered to be her turf. The workers called her “the Mayor,” according to Lila’s owner.

They said, “You can’t put down your lunch with the Mayor around,” but they liked her, even though she stole their food.

Here are some comments about Lila from townspeople who knew her.

“I’ll miss seeing her! She was not really friendly, but I was able to make friends with her to some extent.”

“I was greeted with apathy every time I went to visit. She will be missed.”

All the best to everyone in 2017, and next year I want you to keep a diary, so when I ask for the year in review next December you’ll be ready.

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