I want to tell you about my road trip upstate this week, and what I learned from driving Route 30 to Saranac Lake. Because it was far more educational than I ever imagined it would be.
With Coach at the wheel, I was able to watch out the window as town after town went by like a movie. A movie about devastation and folly. Each town we went through seemed to look worse than the next. We tried to figure out the cause: no investment from anyone IN the town, just outsiders—poor planning which led to sprawl and chain stores, which weren’t doing all that well themselves. (Key clue to a dying town: the location therein of a Dollar Store). No decent downtown, the old one boarded up and falling apart. These things were pretty easy to see. And these were towns with assets, lakes and mountains and trails and… What happened?
Then we arrived at our destination, the town of Saranac Lake. Totally different. An emphasis on its assets: many lakes, skiing, hiking, the outdoors. There had to be 4 stores featuring outdoor gear, bikes and kayaks. There were just a few restaurants downtown and a beautiful renovated hotel. And signs: every once in awhile we’d pass a sign that gave the history not of a building but a significant person who had grown up there or lived there at some time. Bela Bartok, Albert Einstein, numerous Olympic medalists… History was preserved all over this small town. There was also a wonderful pole with little blue flag signs pointing to the mountains within driving distance for climbing. Yes, there was an outskirts, where larger stores lived, but they did not interfere with town commerce. They complemented it.
I came home with fresh ideas about Pine Plains, what we have here and what to emphasize for visitors, and new energy for preserving these things. Most of all, I was thankful that I live here. And very thankful to all the people past and present who have fought hard to keep Pine Plains as safe, protected and beautiful as it is. Are we lucky.
Stay thankful, Pine Plains!