Middle schoolers asked about downtown grant priorities

SARANAC LAKE — The Downtown Revitalization Initiative’s public outreach efforts to get feedback from key stakeholders tapped into a key demographic on Monday: middle schoolers.

What these kids want to see in DRI projects is family friendliness, improvements to sidewalks, access to the waterfront and attention to truck traffic, according to Jacyln Hakes, director of planning services for M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying.

Eleven state and local DRI planners talked to sixth, seventh and eighth-graders at Saranac Lake Middle School for two class periods about what they’d like to see out of the DRI.

“I can’t predict, but I think it was the most fun I’ve had, and will have, in this entire process,” said Local Planning Committee member Jeremy Evans.

Hakes said the DRI committee learned from last month’s stakeholder meetings that kids are important users of the downtown area.

“They’re actively engaged in downtown activities,” Hakes said. “So we really wanted to understand from that perspective. What do they want to see?

“Interestingly enough, they were focused in on some geographic areas,” Hakes said. “Increased access to the waterfront. And overall, more variety of activity and things to do downtown — just various kid-friendly activities.”

Last month DRI planners held open houses, pop-up sessions and other efforts to invite public feedback. Hakes said some themes stood out among adult respondents.

Broadly, most comments fell into the categories of arts and culture, branding and marketing, economy and workforce, environment, housing, public space, recreation and tourism.

Hakes said economy and workforce, and housing and public space, stuck out as what people were most consistently concerned about, though from varying angles. More specific information on community feedback was given to the LPC.

“That will be made available on the website later this week,” Hakes said.