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Region seeks scenic label

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DARK ISLAND — Local organizations and municipalities showed support Tuesday for a plan to put the Thousand Islands-St. Lawrence River region on the map as a top scenic area in the state.

Organizations and municipalities in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties gathered Tuesday with state representatives at Singer Castle to discuss their plans to designate the Thousand Islands-St. Lawrence region as a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance.

“Singer Castle couldn’t be a more perfect place to showcase what we have to offer here,” Hammond Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram said.

The designation, through the state Department of State’s Office of Communities and Waterfronts, offers protection to scenic landscapes through review of projects requiring state or federal action, including direct actions, permits or funding.

“It’s recognized state and federal legislation that says the scenic areas are important and should be protected,” said Barbara Kendall, coastal research specialist for the Department of State. “It amends the coast boundary so if there was a federal or state action in that area, it’s given a higher level of review for state and federal action.”

Mr. Bertram said he and his committee received a $75,000 matching grant from the North Country Regional Economic Development Council that will go toward the application. The grant will be split by 10 municipalities to fund in-kind research that will be included in the SASS application packet, Mr. Bertram said.

Those who participated in Tuesday’s kickoff meeting will be part of a project advisory group that will help identify areas that will be designated for scenic significance.

“As part of method planning, advisory group members would collect maps, aerial photos, and historical and planning studies — anything that would show the scenic, historical or cultural significance of the area,” Ms. Kendall said. “Those will then all be reviewed as part of the application.”

An unlimited number of areas can be designated up to 3 miles inland from the coastal boundary, according to officials.

“This would definitely help our efforts as far as land conservation,” said Jake R. Tibbles, executive director of the Thousand Islands Land Trust. “This would help us better protect resources in our area.”

The ultimate goal of the project is to gain name recognition and to promote the area to tourists, Mr. Bertram said.

“This regional approach is a great thing,” he said. “If you want to get a grant, I can’t think of anything that will help us more than this SASS designation.”

Mr. Bertram said he hopes to submit the application in the spring.

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