Saturday, August 20, 2016

Clifton-Fine, One Year On

The New Gem of the Adirondacks came out just one year ago, in August, 2015. It explored how far the Clifton-Fine community had come in its efforts to rebuild, following the collapse recorded nearly 10 years earlier in the original Gem of the Adirondacks. Now that this first annual milestone has been reached, it seems appropriate to ask what has become of the many things that were in the works, or were showing promise a year ago.

What is new and better? Two signs of progress are highly visible. The first is the beginning of construction to replace the destroyed Wanakena footbridge. The second is the rebirth of the closed IGA food store as the Star Lake Great American. Though each of these has merely replaced something that was recently lost, and in that sense is a limited kind of progress, each is important in a unique way. 

Replacement of the footbridge required a concerted community effort and, in its successful execution it not only is restoring a lost attraction, but it has also greatly strengthened the ties that hold the community together.
Newly poured concrete abutments that will anchor the footbridge
Arrival of the Star Lake Great American likewise has two benefits. First, it has relieved the community of a hardship in the need to travel unreasonable distances to obtain basic necessities. Beyond that, it offers the prospect that having a vital new business will attract customers from surrounding communities and strengthen the larger role of Star Lake as a regional service center. People may come here to get what they need, rather than leaving the area.
Sign welcoming customers to the new grocery
Perhaps the most promising new developments are occurring at the former J&L site. Efforts continue to clean up pollution, and a crushing operation using rocks removed from the mine pit 50 years ago that was in a pilot phase in 2015 has now greatly expanded and is shipping materials to various customers. Rehabilitation of the rail line continues and, when complete, would seem to much improve the economics of the operation. Availability of the rail link will also improve prospects for use of the former paper mill plant in Newton Falls.

Crushed stone production from a former J&L waste rock pile


The vibrant Coffee Fever has also become a significant community asset.

Disappointments continue, of course, and most disappointing has been failure of the Town of Clifton board to support merger of  administrations of the two towns in order to achieve greater efficiency, improved quality of services, and reduced property taxes. This setback is particularly troubling for the hamlet of Cranberry Lake, which has long been disappearing and now seems likely to continue its steady decline.

Other changes for better or worse are underway, and they may be addressed in future posts.

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