A recipient of one of our Upper Hudson Recreation Hub grants
Essex Chain Skiing A recipient of one of our Upper Hudson Recreation Hub grants © Erika Bailey/TNC

Stories in New York

Prosperity for Adirondack Communities

Learn how we're investing in communities and conservation.

You won’t find the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub on a map, but if you love adventure, you may find yourself in the heart of one of the five central towns in the Adirondacks that collectively identify themselves under this new label. Newcomb, North Hudson, Minerva, Indian Lake and Long Lake reside amidst the 300 lakes and ponds, 90 mountains and 425 miles of rivers and streams-the former Finch lands now protected by The Nature Conservancy and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

After being awarded Upper Hudson Recreation Hub grants, the microenterprise grant program provided by TNC and administered by DEC , each of these towns is implementing exciting new projects centering around tourism and recreation. Carol Calabrese, Co-CEO of the Essex County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), a key partner in administering the grant appropriations and working with the recipients, explained, “some local businesses have to choose between updating infrastructure to keep the doors open versus equally important amenity updates their guests have come to expect, like modern hotel room amenities.” For some of the recipients, this grant afforded the opportunity to do both for the first time.

Enter Wester Miga, the town of Newcome deputy supervisor. “We are light years ahead of where we were just five years ago,” said Miga. The town received a grant of $60,000 for business development and marketing efforts, including funds to create a new brochure, brochure racks and banners along the Route 28 corridor. The project also supports Newcomb’s expanding efforts to promote year-round recreational opportunities, lodging and other visitor amenities. “Our future economy is tourism,” says George Canon, town supervisor.

Newcomb has long provided southern access to the High Peaks Wilderness, a popular hiking destination, and in 2013, the town became the gateway to the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area. This area was established after the Conservancy worked with DEC to add 18,300 acres ;to the publicly owned Adirondack Forest Preserve. Because of this, new businesses are sprouting up within these five towns to serve increasing tourist demand.

The Hoot Owl Lodge received a recreation grant from The Nature Conservancy.
Hoot Owl Lodge The Hoot Owl Lodge received a recreation grant from The Nature Conservancy. © John DiGiacomo

“When I come up to the Adirondacks, it feels like home,” says Tony Audino, who opened the Hoot Owl Lodge in Newcomb with his wife, Kelly, in 2014. They did the renovations themselves, transforming their old farmhouse into what is now Newcomb’s only bed and breakfast. Even though the lodge needed new appliances, they couldn’t fit them into the budget without the microenterprise grant, which helped them buy a range, dishwasher, refrigerator, and a washer and dryer for all of those post-hike muddy clothes!

Totaling $600,000 over two rounds of funding, the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub grant program is strengthening the link between local economies and conserved lands. Because small businesses operate on tight margins, this funding provided capital for these companies to focus on different objectives, like promoting tourism. In 2015, the program’s first round granted $100,000 to seven businesses that collectively employ 63 workers. The first grants had such a positive impact that a second round of $500,000 in additional grants was awarded to 14 businesses in 2017.

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Other Upper Hudson Recreation Hub projects to receive funding include equestrian staging areas, modernized lodging, campground improvements and a microenterprise start-up project. Before applying, eligible businesses must demonstrate how the services they offer are tied to outdoor recreation on newly protected lands.  Additionally, they must attend an all-day business-training course led by the North Country Small Business Development Center and the IDA. Support from both resources is provided on an ongoing basis for grant recipients. It is estimated that the total economic impact up front is nearly $1.4 million, but the true impact is exponential.