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Raquette River improvement progress speeding up

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A project to bring together communities and increase tourism along the 174-mile Raquette River Blueway Corridor is moving forward slowly, taking several large steps forward in recent months after more than 10 years in the works.

The committee has worked to create a network of communities along the river that will work together to improve amenities for tourism and secure grant funding. Progress has been slow until recently, committee founder Joann E. Ferris said. Local governments are sometimes hesitant to sign on to the project without knowing exactly what they’re getting into.

“We get discouraged because we don’t get them all. However, we have picked up some new ones,” Ms. Ferris said.

Local governments may not want to join the committee because they do not know whether they will have to invest in improvements along the river. Once groups do get involved, it can be difficult to keep them engaged and informed because of the rapidly changing nature of local governments.

Ms. Ferris started the project in 2001, as an attempt to improve the river and increase tourism in St. Lawrence, Franklin and Hamilton counties. She handed over directorship of the council to Potsdam Planning and Development Coordinator Frederick J. Hanss about four years ago.

The project submitted a comprehensive plan to the state in 2010, and received a big boost when it was named a priority project by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council last month.

This will give the group increasing access to state funds in the year to come.

“It’s very much a regional economic development project,” Mr. Hanss said.

Because Mr. Hanss is leading the project, most grant applications will go through the village of Potsdam’s Planning and Development Office.

One recent grant will allow the committee to place an informational kiosk in Colton, as a prototype for other, similar kiosks to be built along the corridor.

Further improvements are being designed for boat launches, riverside parks and overlooks.

To receive the needed funds, the committee has worked to enter into a memorandum of understanding with each of the affected communities. These memorandums do not hold local governments to any commitments, financial or otherwise, but they establish the communities’ support for the project, which will make state officials more likely to dole out grants.

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