Watkins Glen sees lakefront plan
WATKINS GLEN—The final report for the Lakefront Management & Development Strategy was presented at the Community Center Wednesday night, Dec. 1.
Presented by the Laberge Group, an engineering, architecture, surveying and planning firm based in Albany, the sixty minute slide show gave a brief synopsis of the more than 300 page proposed plan for the lakefront and business section of Watkins Glen. The purpose of the plan is multifaceted: establish a community vision, gain an understanding of assets and liabilities, protect natural and cultural resources, improve economic conditions and revitalize the area, and improve access to financial and technical assistance.
Starting in January there have been three open meetings between the Laberge Group, community leaders, and citizens. The first meeting, a small group gathering, helped identify the needs, wants, and concerns of the community. The second meeting was a “Walk and Talk” through the defined sections discussing the good points as well as the problem areas. With Wednesday's session the initial phase of the process is complete.
The Laberge Group representative, Ben Syden, paid Watkins Glen leaders gracious compliments on the work already in progress and the vitality of the community. Further commenting on the downtown section, a vibrant area with very few empty store fronts and the new lakefront park and hotel which attract the both local residents and visitors to the area. However, the disconnect between the two is one of the major issues of the new plan. In the downtown section it isn't apparent there is a lake, and in the harbor section it isn't apparent where the downtown section is located. Other highlights of the recommendation include encouraging waterfront improvements, facilitate rehabilitation and design improvements in downtown, improve existing housing and encourage residential development on the waterfront, improve recreation facilities and promote recreational uses on the Seneca Canal, improve parking access, and foster public awareness and promotion.
The presentation of the physical plan showed many advantages for the pedestrian. Wider sidewalks in the downtown area leading to a promenade along the lakefront and into the marsh area. Vehicular traffic, always a problem, cannot be moved from downtown area but it can be better controlled with the use of “bump out” curbs and more apparent crosswalks among other ideas. Along Seneca Canal exciting ideas for new recreational uses would make the area a destination for both residents and visitors
A set of design guidelines have been drawn up to convey general policies about construction for the lakefront and downtown. These guidelines will be used by the reviewing authority, contractors, property owners and developers when making decisions about new construction projects, renovations, or expansions. Design guidelines are also an integral part of the grant process.
The plan has been proposed. Mr. Syden concluded the presentation by encouraging the attending local government representatives, including Watkins Glen mayor, Judy Phillips, board members; Schuyler County legislature, and SCOPED representatives to align the proper leadership, the commitment and the resources needed to implement the plan.