News Column

Solo guideboat rows for Saranac Lake revitalization

September 4, 2014

By Kim Smith Dedam, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Sept. 04--SARANAC LAKE -- Village Trustee Paul Van Cott is taking local development by the oars.

He has pledged to row solo in the historic 90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic guideboat race starting Friday. And he is inviting people to pledge support for a good cause.

Van Cott is rowing 90 miles to raise money and awareness for downtown Saranac Lake via the Saranac Lake Local Development Corp., a municipal entity to support growth initiatives, loan programs and grant-giving as part of the village's economic-development strategy.

The organization, chartered in 2012, has already raised $7,000 this summer.


For Van Cott, the 90-miler is a big row, especially solo.

"I have rowed every day of June and July on Rainbow Lake and have been rowing almost every day of August on Lower Saranac Lake, so I am in pretty decent shape," he said via email.

"But I have not done any carries, and that will be a challenge since the guideboat I row is 70 pounds. Also, it is my mother-in-law's boat, so if I drop it, I will be in big trouble."

Adirondack guideboats have long been part of the Saranac Lake tourism and sports industry, appearing first on wilderness lakes around the 1830s. They were used often to ferry travelers and their gear into the backcountry for fishing and forest adventure.

Van Cott is using his oars to ferry awareness.

"Saranac Lake is the capital of paddling and rowing in the Adirondacks, so it is fitting to invite the Saranac Lake community to be part of this challenge," he said.

He titles this trip: Rowing for Saranac Lake's Future.


It's not like heading up the pond without a paddle. Economic growth and population increase have been hallmarks of Saranac Lake's industry in the past decade, unlike many regions of the Adirondacks.

The population of 5,856 in the 2010 Census is up nearly 6.6 percent since 2000.

The median household income in 2000 was $29,754. By 2012, it had reached $38,827.

Volunteers, artisans and engaged citizens have added at least 10 new events to the annual village schedule in a decade, including the Mayor's Cup Races, FirstNight Saranac Lake, Daffest, HoboFest and the Farm-2-Fork Festival.

These join the oldest winter festival in the United States: Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century.


So why does one trustee set out to row 90 miles?

"We need to build more awareness and support for revitalization in Saranac Lake. We need people's ideas, voices and energy and their participation, whether through a donation or other commitments of support. That's why we are taking it to the water and rowing for Saranac Lake's future," Van Cott said.

"Our commercial property owners face herculean challenges. Their properties are older and require more maintenance, which in many cases has gone lacking. The money for facade improvement or other significant renovations is just not there."


Van Cott has a three-part dedicated crew, with his wife, actress Leslie Dame, and their children, Dylan and Sasha, helping at ports along the 90-mile course. The race continues into Saturday and Sunday.

Van Cott told the Press-Republican he is visualizing the finish line.

"We are so fortunate to have such an epic event as the 90-Miler finish on Lake Flower, which brings paddlers to Saranac Lake throughout the summer as they train for this September challenge.

"I hope to join them at the finish line on Sunday, and in celebrating Saranac Lake."

Email Kim Smith Dedam:

Twitter: @KimDedam


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Source: Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, NY)

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