Press-Republican

April 15, 2012

A celebration of recreation

COLIN READ, Everybody's Business
Press-Republican

---- — It seems like just yesterday when this community participated in a discussion of the role of the arts in our North Country.

The discussion had been initiated when a group of concerned residents and community leaders assembled to create a Vision 2040 that could guide the economic development necessary to sustain our children in a North Country economy.

We confronted some stark realities and have since realized that we would need an additional 3,000 families to either remain, return or be attracted to our region just so we could maintain the quality of life to which we have become accustomed.

When we framed the problem not as what we must do in the creation of manufacturing, but what we must do to attract people to come, the challenge took on a whole new light.

It is apparent that to attract new people to our region, we must no longer compare what we have to offer in the future with what we had in the past. That might be relevant to retain more North Country residents, but it does little to attract new residents who have myriad locations from which to choose.

When we try to attract a new professional to our hospital, our university, our businesses or our agencies, we can provide for them an exciting job opportunity. To their spouse and family, though, their professional excitement holds little sway.

The rest of the family seek other opportunities, perhaps for a professional challenge themselves, a good school system, access to a high-quality airport with a good schedule of flights, etc. And, all seek the types of amenities people who have many such opportunities come to expect.

The first community discussion on such a social infrastructure centered around the arts. The forum, held in January, was very successful. It was introduced on Thom Hallock's Mountain Lake Journal one Thursday, was followed by a presentation at the Krinovitz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall on the Plattsburgh State campus, and it culminated in a community forum and call-in discussion on Mountain Lake PBS. With each presentation and discussion, the circle was widened and the discussion expanded.

The idea was grassroots democracy and community activism. This is our community, and it is our future and the future of our children at stake. Perhaps because we are tucked up in this glorious corner of New York state, we are more self-reliant here, and we want to forge our own future based on our immense base of natural amenities and human potentialities.

We want to forge a local arts scene by taking the issue to the community rather than expecting government to do it for us.

The second forum is equally fascinating, and perhaps even more tied to the grandeur to which we are so accustomed. It will focus on recreation and the many ways and myriad individuals that are coming together to enhance our attachment to the out-of-doors.

As before, the three events will begin with an introduction by Thom Hallock on Channel 57's Mountain Lake Journal at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 15. On Thursday, April 19, at 7 p.m., in the Krinovitz Auditorium at Hawkins Hall, the public is again invited to see and hear from some of the advocates for recreation opportunities in our region.

And, a week after that, on Thursday, April 26, at 8 p.m., join them live in the studio or by watching and calling into Channel 57.

At these three forums, you will hear from Luke Cyphers and his associates about the importance of world-class recreation for a vibrant world-class town. You will hear about the completion of the Saranac River Trail, about how people may soon be able to float down the Saranac from a put-in location near the university and a take-out location downtown, about how towns are coming together to share facilities like the Crete Center, and about how we may be able to create a world-class whitewater kayaking facility right downtown in Plattsburgh.

If you are like me, you will be amazed at the range of exciting projects that are on the cusp of completion or still a glint in some visionary's eyes. These are truly exciting times for our region and for our city.

The downtown is looking nicer by the day, and the signage that is friendly to our Quebec neighbors is a classy touch. There is a vision, and it is becoming more apparent all the time.

Check it out for yourself, and come to these community forums. They are great ways to get involved. I will see you there!

Colin Read is the chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at SUNY Plattsburgh. His tenth book, Great Minds in Finance — the Efficient Market Hypothesists, is coming out this fall. Continue the discussion at www.pressrepublican.com/0216_read.