SARANAC LAKE - In an effort to make the community more welcoming to French-speaking visitors from north of the border, the village is considering replacing its municipal signage with bilingual signage.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau announced on his Facebook page Tuesday that the village board will consider the policy change to French-English signs at its meeting Monday night.
"The closest and most likely tourism market that Saranac Lake can attract and profit from is the French-speaking 'Francophone' market just to the north," Rabideau wrote. "Some 4,000,000 of our future friends and visitors, primarily from Montreal and the rest of Quebec ... Our tourism future may be only a couple of hours away."
Saranac Lake village officials are considering making municipal signage, like that seen here at the village parking lot next to the Berkeley Green, bilingual in English and French.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Rabideau told the Enterprise this morning that the idea first surfaced earlier this year after village board members met with Franklin County tourism officials.
"The county said our closest tourism market is Montreal, and Ottawa, too, and that one of the things we should be doing is converting our signs to French and English and being more French-friendly, because that would be an attraction," the mayor said.
Rabideau said Plattsburgh officials implemented bilingual signage during his tenure as that city's mayor in the 1990s, "and Plattsburgh prospers from the shopping and tourism market from Quebec."
Rabideau said Saranac Lake has slowly been trying to incorporate French phrases into some of its tourism advertising and downtown promotion efforts. At one of its downtown movie nights this summer, Rabideau taught attendees how to say "bon soir" for "good evening" and "grand spectacle" for "big show."
The switch to French-English signage won't happen overnight and also won't be expensive, Rabideau said.
"It will be slow and not costly at all," the mayor said. "As we replace our signs and put up new ones, we want to be bilingual."
Rabideau said he recognizes that just changing signage won't draw more French-speaking tourists to Saranac Lake. One of the marketing initiatives the village and its Local Development Corporation are considering, he said, is to rent a billboard on the west side of the Adirondack Northway between the border and Exit 36 to attract southbound tourists from Quebec. Rabideau also plans to invite a former member of Canadian Parliament, Claude Bachand of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, to visit with the LDC and talk about how the village can attract more of the Quebec market to Saranac Lake.
The idea of making the village's signage bilingual drew generally positive reactions on the mayor's Facebook page Tuesday.
"As far as these french/english signs are concerned, they should be put up because right now the only thing that identifies us as a 'French Friendly' town are our sister cities, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, and Entrain-sur-Nohain, France," wrote Nora Donnelly.
Ben Monagan, who noted he's not a resident of Saranac Lake anymore, called the signage change a good idea and also suggested putting up billboards in Canada to attract more visitors from there.
Paul Fobare recommended creating a bilingual website.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.