When Muhammad Ahmad purchased an abandoned gas station in North Hudson, N.Y. in 2014, it had been more than a decade since the property had been used for anything at all. But after buying it at a tax auction, he got to work right away, making repairs inside and out, and opened a new Sunoco station and convenience store just eight months later.
That station was one of seven businesses to receive awards in 2015 through the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub Microenterprise Grant Program, funded by The Nature Conservancy. The grants are aimed at small businesses that cater to the area's tourism industry. They aren’t just lifelines for business owners; they strengthen communities too, making an indelible connection between protected lands and the people who live, work and visit.
Muhammad’s station has been a boon to travelers and North Hudson residents alike. Customers stop for gas. They buy pretzels, sunscreen and maps. They also ask questions. 'Can you recommend a good hike?' 'How do I get to Boreas Ponds?' In many ways, those interactions reveal the way public Forest Preserve lands, the adventurers they attract and the economic vitality of rural Adirondack towns are interwoven. “Campers do spend money,” he says. “If we don’t have some kind of recreation, it’s hard to operate.”
But the Adirondacks have no shortage of recreation. What local communities need are businesses where visitors can buy supplies, get advice, find a bed, grab a beer or order a sandwich. In the rural towns of Newcomb, North Hudson, Minerva, Long Lake and Indian Lake, we've recently protected more than 100,000 acres. As those lands thrive, we want to make sure those communities do as well—which is why we’re also investing in these new microenterprise grants. Now, towns can capitalize on business opportunities from adventurers who love snowmobiling, hiking, hunting, biking, paddling and fishing. When new visitors flock to the newly protected areas to enjoy a new rafting expedition or bike tour, Muhammad will be there to help them on their way.