This week, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise’s Chris Knight reported on Saranac Lake’s effort to rebrand itself as “capital of the Adirondacks.”
“We decided we should trademark it because we don’t want anybody else claiming they’re the capital of the Adirondacks,” Mayor Clyde Rabideau told the newspaper.
In a lot of ways, it’s a fair claim.
Saranac Lake is the biggest community in the Park, population-wise, and has so far managed to avoid the seasonal boom-and-bust cycles that plague other thriving communities, such as Lake George and Old Forge.
The village has also maintained a robust resident population, where places like Lake Placid have struggled with the balance between locals and second-homeowners.
Saranac Lake boasts a remarkably diverse economy, when compared with most rural communities in the U.S. — one that includes biotech, tourism, the arts, retail, government, education, professional services, and more.
Finally, many of the Park’s administrators — from the DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency — live in Saranac Lake, commuting to their headquarters in nearby Ray Brook.
But despite those assets, I think Robert Moore, supervisor in the town of Webb, had a good point when he told the Enterprise that Saranac Lake’s bragging rights come with a price.
“Of course, you have to live up to the reputation you establish [as Capital of the Adirondacks] if you make that kind of a claim,” Moore said.
Right now, Rabideau and his fellow village leaders face some big hurdles and questions, which will likely define their tenures and perhaps the future of the village.
– The Trudeau Institute has raised the possibility that it could relocate some or all of its highly paid jobs to another facility outside the Adirondacks.
-The village of Saranac Lake has let the local comprehensive planning process collapse, after years of work by dozens of community-members.
(Full disclosure: My wife, Susan Waters, worked on the comprehensive planning committee and served for four years as a village trustee.)
-A nasty feud has been allowed to fester in the heart of the downtown retail area that has left a crucial parking lot closed at a time when local businesses didn’t need any additional headaches.
-The community remains painfully divided by too many political jurisdictions, with three towns, two counties, two congressional districts, and a village government all vying to represent local interests.
Rabideau has already proved himself a brilliant communicator, introducing new festivals and working to rebrand the village.
The former Plattsburgh mayor has also worked successfully to ease much of the tension and ugliness that in recent years often paralyzed the village board. Those are real and noteworthy accomplishments.
But if Saranac Lake hopes to earn and keep its lofty mantle as one of the Park’s pre-eminent communities, its leaders now need to show more tangible progress on some of these thorny, crucial issues.