North Country officials, state Secretary of State break ground for riverfront enhancement project at Potsdam's Ives Park
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 5:01 pm

Wielding shovels at the groundbreaking in Potsdam Wednesday were, from left, Judy Aldrich, Dick Ashley of Sen. Griffo’s office, NY Secretary of State Cesar Perales, Mary Jane Watson, Cindy Morin, Tony Collins, Otto Czerepak, Paul Cummings, Mayor Yurgartis, Marylee Ballou, and Sheila Cerwonka. North Country This Week photograph by Craig Freilich.

POTSDAM -- State and local dignitaries met in Ives Park today to break ground for the village’s riverfront enhancement project.

New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales joined Potsdam Mayor Steve Yurgartis, Clarkson University President and North Country Regional Economic Development Council Co-chair Tony Collins and others in kicking off the start of construction of the Ives Park Access Enhancement Project, a local waterfront revitalization project to create a new river walk trail in Ives Park with a walkway along the Raquette River shoreline in the Village of Potsdam.

$571,232 of the project’s costs are covered by funds from the state’s Regional Council initiative. The project is described as a “Regional Council priority project.”

Architect Paul Cummings of The Chazen Companies said the project could be finished by next Juky.

“As part of our vision to activate tourism as a driver to diversify the North Country economy, the Council is actively supporting initiatives that transform the region by driving community development and leveraging private investment,” said Collins. “All along the Raquette River corridor, regional partners are developing an environmentally friendly infrastructure that benefits local residents and tourists alike.”

One of the partners Collins refers to is Clarkson University itself, which is working on a similar project on the opposite bank of the river in the village.

The village project includes a new river walk trail in Ives Park with a 6 foot wide walkway along the Raquette River shoreline from the intersection of Water and Maple Streets south through Ives Park with a return loop to Bay and Water Streets. The Riverwalk will connect to similar walking and bicycle routes to Fall Island Park and to Clarkson University's Munter Trail, which follows the river shoreline from its campus to the village limits at Bayside Cemetery. Collectively, these three trails will enhance 3.5 miles of waterfront to the public for its use and enjoyment. The Raquette Riverwalk was identified as a high priority in Potsdam's Downtown and Waterfront Revitalization Plan, and was part of a “shovel-ready” plan by the village submitted for support from the federal fiscal stimulus plan.

“The Village of Potsdam is honored to have New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales join us to celebrate the beginning of the Ives Park Access Enhancement Project,” said Village of Potsdam Mayor Yugartis. “Working with the secretary’s staff in the Division of Coastal Resources, our volunteer Local Waterfront Revitalization Advisory Committee with assistance from the Village’s Panning and Development Office and its Department of Public Works developed a Downtown and Waterfront Revitalization Plan that was too well thought out to sit on a shelf. The Ives Park Access Enhancement Project is the first step in the implementation of the Village’s plan to make downtown Potsdam and especially its magnificent Raquette River shoreline an outstanding place to live, work, study and play.”

New York Secretary of State Perales said, “I am proud that the New York Department of State could be a part of this effort and that the Environmental Protection Fund’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program played a role in the revitalization of the Village of Potsdam. An enhanced waterfront will rejuvenate tourism and foster economic development of the region.”

He also said a project like this one is especially worth it because “it makes the state look good.” He also said trips like the one he took to northern New York today are good for “a New York City kid like me to see how beautiful New York really is.”

As part of the state regional economic development process, the Village of Potsdam and the Towns of Canton and Colton were the recipients of a 2011 award totaling $346,923 to advance waterfront revitalization and Blueway Trail development on the Raquette River and Grasse River.

The project includes design and construction of a number of access improvements at Ives Park in the Village of Potsdam including: construction of a new ADA-compliant river walk trail along the Raquette River shoreline and construction of streetscape improvements to provide linkages between Ives Park and adjoining neighborhoods. The grant also includes funding for the design and construction of a number of trail side facilities at the Stone Valley whitewater area in the hamlet of Colton and an assessment of the engineering, economic and market feasibility of the development of whitewater kayak parks on the Raquette River in the Village of Potsdam and on the Grasse River in the Town of Canton.

In the second round of the REDC competition, the Village of Potsdam, in cooperation with the communities in the Raquette River Blueway Corridor, was awarded $143,610 through the Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. The grant allowed for the implementation and design of the Downtown Riverwalk in the Village of Potsdam. The grant also included funding for the development of an oral history project on the construction of hydro electric generating facilities on the Raquette River; outreach on the Raquette River Voluntary Stewardship Plan; design and installation of 15 Raquette River Blueway information kiosks; and construction of a handicapped access ramp and handicapped accessible restroom in the Colton Information Center at Stone Valley.

Town of Canton Supervisor David Button, who was present at the groundbreaking, said, “We know how important our waterfront is to the economic health and vitality of our individual communities. This collaborative effort between Canton, Colton and Potsdam will help attract outdoor enthusiasts to our area. If we can develop and promote these key sites, it will make St. Lawrence County a destination spot for people who appreciate the beauty and recreational opportunities that both the Grasse and Racquette Rivers provide. We appreciate the fact that the North Country Regional Economic Development Council recognized the potential for this joint venture and gave it priority status. This is the kind of growth that makes sense for our towns.”