SARANAC LAKE - Years of planning, fundraising and volunteer effort came to a head this year for not one, not two but three separate projects designed to benefit the Saranac Lake community for years to come.
While the coincidence wasn't planned, the completion of two of those projects was celebrated on the same day, Oct. 29. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held that morning for the Saranac Lake Community Store. That night, the ribbon was cut on the new T-bar lift at Mount Pisgah Ski Center.
Meanwhile, work is progressing in William Morris Park on the Adirondack Carousel, which broke ground in June.
Organizers and supporters of the Saranac Lake Community Store cut the red ribbon to open the store on Oct. 29.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
"If you look around Saranac Lake, we've got a new lift at Mount Pisgah, you have the Community Store opening, the carousel on its way to construction - it's amazing what gets done in a small town like this," said Friends of Mount Pisgah President Wayne Feinberg.
Community Store Board President Melinda Little told the Enterprise after the Oct. 29 ribbon cutting that it had fulfilled the vision she had in her mind for more than five years.
"I started to cry when the door opened this morning," she said. "It was very emotional, in a good way."
The Community Store traces its roots to a meeting at the Harrietstown Town Hall in June 2006, when one of the founders of a community-owned department store in Powell, Wyo., came to Saranac Lake to talk about the concept. That was just months after Walmart dropped plans to build a 121,000-square-foot Supercenter in the village and four years after the village's Ames department store closed, forcing many village residents to shop out of town to get basic goods - from underwear to bedsheets.
A group of local residents ultimately proposed a homegrown solution and began selling $100 shares in a proposed Saranac Lake Community Store in July 2007. It took longer than expected, but the group announced in March that it had reached its goal of selling $500,000 worth of shares. By then, the store had a location, the 5,000-square-foot former Corvo restaurant on Main Street.
The store's goods include children's, men's and women's clothing, baby goods, housewares, crafts, sewing supplies and books by local authors. Organizers have said they want to help fill some of the void left by the loss of Ames.
Little said she hopes people who've stopped shopping locally now have a reason to come back.
"We're trying to offer good, durable goods at reasonable prices that people are asking for here in Saranac Lake," she said. "Hopefully, people will give us a chance."
Since its opening, the store has drawn national media attention, including a long feature in the Nov. 13 business section of the New York Times. A television crew from CBS's "The Early Show" produced a segment on the store that aired in late November.
Fundraising for Mount Pisgah's new T-bar lift began in July 2009. The goal was to collect enough funds to replace the 1940s-era T-bar that had served the village-run mountain since the 1960s, which broke regularly.
"This is a big project, but it's a necessity," then-Pisgah Manager Matt Cook told the Enterprise in 2009. "It's not going to happen in a year, but we know the support we have for a new lift is long term."
The project got a major leg up in April 2010, when the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded the village a $600,000 matching grant for a new T-bar and a series of trails at the mountain.
The old T-bar was removed from the mountain in pieces earlier this year. The new lift was purchased by the village from Doppelmayr CTEC for $374,769 and installed this fall. A new lift attendant building has also been constructed. Much of the work has been done by volunteers and businesses that have donated their time, money and labor on the project.
"The support from the community has been phenomenal," Feinberg said. "That's as much as you could have ever asked for."
Donations are still being sought to offset $100,000 in unplanned electrical costs on the project. The new lift will be up and running when the mountain opens for the season.
The June 20 groundbreaking ceremony was a long time coming for Karen Loffler, who first came to the village board with the idea of building an Adirondack-themed carousel in Saranac Lake 11 years ago.
The project took longer to get off the ground than organizers anticipated, largely because of fundraising difficulties amid the recession. In 2009, the carousel's only two paid employees were laid off, and the project was shelved.
Since then, the project has been led by volunteers including Marge Glowa of Onchiota. They helped close a fundraising gap of more than $200,000 through private donations, in-kind services and donated construction materials.
Designed to fuse art, education and entertainment, the carousel will feature two dozen hand-carved and hand-painted Adirondack animals. It will be housed in a 3,500-square-foot pavilion building, which organizers plan to use for educational programs and rent out for events.
Excavation work at the site began in July, and the steel structure of the building went up in the weeks that followed. By the end of the year, the building had been closed in, windows and doors had been installed, and workers were putting up sections of trim and siding. Organizers have said they hope construction will be complete early next year.
When it's done, Glowa said the carousel will provide a boost to Saranac Lake's tourism industry.
"We anticipate that not only will people in the community be able to use it, but we know it's going to draw a significant number of people coming to see the carousel here in Saranac Lake," Glowa said. "Hopefully they will go through the community and see all the other things we have to offer here."