TUPPER LAKE - Improving the Raquette Pond waterfront and enhancing the Demars Boulevard corridor are the top priorities in the draft Tupper Lake Revitalization Strategy and Action Plan.
The grant-funded plan, developed by a team of local leaders, community volunteers and hired planners, was outlined for the first time Thursday at a public workshop at the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library. About 35 people showed up for the session.
"This is the end of a process that started well over a year ago," said Melissa McManus, the town and village's community development consultant. "This is our chance to hear what we got right, hopefully, and what we maybe didn't get right and what we have to change."
Michael Welti of Behan Planning and Design, right, talks with the audience Thursday at a workshop on the draft Tupper Lake Revitalization Strategy and Action Plan in the basement of the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"We're trying to revitalize Tupper Lake - not the village, not the town, but Tupper Lake all together," village Mayor Paul Maroun told the audience. "We're really trying to spruce up Tupper Lake, make people want to stop here, stay here, spend money here and enjoy what we have."
Michael Welti, director of planning services for Behan Planning and Design, presented the highlights of the plan, which was funded by the New York Department of State. The goals, he said, are to enhance year-round public access to the Raquette Pond waterfront, create opportunities to learn about the history and environment of Tupper Lake, redevelop vacant and under-used commercial and industrial sites - like the former Oval Wood Dish/Jarden Plastics factory - and identify and protect environmental resources.
Specific projects that meet those goals are outlined in the plan, and some of them are already in the works. Construction of a new playground and gateway to Flanders Park, at the end of Mill Street, is scheduled to begin shortly, Welti said. An interpretive plan and signage for the waterfront parks is also being developed by the Wild Center nature museum. The goal is to install some of those elements by late summer or early fall, Welti said.
Another idea for improving the Raquette Pond waterfront is to conduct a beach feasibility study.
"Yes, there's a beach in the community already at Little Wolf," Welti said. "But for people who are visiting here and come to Raquette Pond, they might not be aware of those opportunities for swimming. We're not really sure if there's a location that's suitable for this, and it's something that needs a little more investigation."
Enhancing the entry points and the edge of the Tupper Lake Municipal Park along Demars Boulevard is also listed in the plan. If those areas are more inviting, more people are likely to stop and enjoy the waterfront, Welti said.
Beyond the park, extending a waterfront trail that currently ends at the Sunset Park Motel is named as a priority project. Welti said a longer trail that traverses wetland areas with a boardwalk and features scenic viewpoints and fishing areas would be a big attraction. It would also link the uptown and downtown areas of the community. However, he noted that easements would be needed to put the trail across several privately held properties along the waterfront.
The plan also features another trail that would connect downtown and uptown. Construction of the Junction Pass Multi-Modal Trail is scheduled to begin next year. It would run along an old railroad bed and would be used for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter, and walking and biking the rest of the year.
Opportunities for redevelopment are also a big part of the strategy. Welti said members of the revitalization committee have been talking to the owner of the OWD property about how the facility could be reused or redeveloped.
"We want to help that process and continue to support that," he said.
The plan also envisions redeveloping the site of the Sunset Park Motel and LaValley Real Estate, just north of the Municipal Park, as a possible waterfront hotel and conference center, promoting mixed-used development (residential and commercial) along the east side of Demars Boulevard and improving the design of an approved but yet-to-be-built 49-unit townhouse project along the boulevard, across from the OWD site, so the back of the buildings aren't facing the road. Welti said the property is currently being sold.
Enhancing Demars Boulevard using "complete streets" principles and traffic-calming measures is also named as a priority in the plan, although it's listed as a long-term project because the reconstruction would need to be done by the state Department of Transportation, which owns and maintains the road.
Following the presentation, Welti asked the audience what ideas they liked and what parts of the plan sparked concerns.
Dave Gross said he liked the idea of having both a waterfront trail and a trail along the old railroad bed so that people could walk in a circuit between uptown and downtown, rather than walking along Demars Boulevard, which many people do now.
"This would be a little more enjoyable, and you wouldn't have to worry about getting run over," he said.
Fred Schuller said the new playground in Flanders Park "will be a big asset" for families that come to Tupper Lake from out of town.
Betty Woods said it's important to preserve the green space along the waterfront. Her husband, Bob Woods, suggested planting trees along Demars Boulevard "so it looks like a real boulevard."
There was a lot of enthusiasm for exploring the idea of a Raquette Pond beach. Monica Parent said most visitors can't find the current public beach at Little Wolf Pond.
"It's a beautiful beach, but it's well hidden," she said. "A beach (on the Raquette Pond waterfront) would stop traffic. In Long Lake, it's a show-stopper. That's what people see."
The audience didn't voice any major concerns with the plan, although questions were raised about who would maintain the waterfront trail and whether the private property owners along the pond would be willing to grant easements to make it happen.
The draft document is available for public review at the town hall, the village offices, the library and on the Internet at tupper-lake.com. Comments on the plan are being accepted through June 11. They can be dropped off or mailed to village Clerk Mary Casagrain, 53 Park St., Tupper Lake, NY 12986, or emailed to Melissa McManus at email@example.com.
The revitalization committee will use the feedback to revise the strategy and plan before submitting a final draft to the town and village boards this summer.