Irwin responded that small arts communities are becoming viable.
“It sometimes takes subsidies to get started.”
Bertha Rand of the Essex County Fair Board told of efforts to use the fairgrounds for more than one week a year, such as for monthly craft fairs.
“Westport doesn’t seem to feel the fairgrounds are important and doesn’t support its activities,” she said.
Rand, who grew up in Westport, pointed out that there was poor attendance at events such as a recent car show, while a similar activity in Crown Point was very successful.
In discussing activities, Irwin wanted the town to think in terms of hiking local trails, the arts, culinary offerings and points of interest.
The lack of affordable housing for new families and for senior citizens was pointed out by several residents.
“That’s the pattern in the Northeast,” Irwin said. “In this area, you are aging faster than the rest of the state.”
‘SPREAD THE WORD’
A discussion ensued over so-called “branded” accommodations.
Though Westport has several bed-and-breakfasts, as well as inns, several in the audience felt that a commercially known motel chain might attract people to the area.
“We need more year-round residents,” Dee Carroll of the Westport Marina said.
“We need to market the town and school to encourage people who are creative to settle here. As far as the trails, such as CATS (Champlain Area Trail System), we need to spread the word and let the world know.”
‘UP TO WESTPORT’
Elizabeth Lee felt there should be an effort to stem the loss of young people after they graduate and reach out to them by pointing out positive attributes, such as high-speed Internet.
Jim Carroll wanted to know what will happen with the findings.
“Our role wraps up at this point,” Irwin said. “It’s up to the community to pick it up and move forward.