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Colton plans riverside improvements, paddlers’ facility

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COLTON — The town hopes to draw tourists to its scenic views and thrilling rapids with the creation of a paddlers’ center and scenic overview.

Colton has long been St. Lawrence County’s kayaking headquarters, with several dam releases every season, creating whitewater conditions challenging to even the most skilled paddlers.

Canton and Potsdam have spent the last few months planning to get in on the action by creating artificial whitewater parks for beginning or intermediate kayakers.

Colton has not been forgotten in the planning, but the town wants to make more use of the resources it already has rather than creating a new park from scratch.

Part of the challenge is creating an experience that appeals to everyone, not just top-tier paddlers.

“It’s wonderful to have a natural whitewater park at Stone Valley, but it’s an expert-level course, and so that only attracts a limited number and type of paddlers,” said Ruth T. McWilliams, Colton Tourism and Beautification Committee chairwoman.

Much of the funding for the whitewater initiatives in Canton, Potsdam and Colton comes from a state Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant, which is controlled by Potsdam.

Colton plans to create a handicapped-accessible scenic overlook near the north end of the Stone Valley hiking trail, which follows the Raquette River and provides a view of the kayakers during dam release.

The town also will build a paddler’s center with restrooms and changing facilities, and improve parking.

“About 80 percent of the people who attend whitewater events are spectators, they’re not the paddlers,” Ms. McWilliams said.

The trail is owned and maintained by Brookfield Renewable Energy Group, St. Lawrence County, Colton, Parishville and Pierrepont.

The plan outlined in the grant application originally called for the paddler’s center to be located near the Colton Fire Station, near the hiking trailhead.

The Potsdam village board voted unanimously to request an amendment to the plan from the New York Department of State to move the center to a facility at another location that will be constructed.

“We’ve been exploring the location for that,” Ms. McWilliams said.

She said the choice has nearly been made, but would not disclose the location until everything is finalized.

The whitewater facilities in Canton, Potsdam and Colton are still in the early planning stages. Once the feasibility studies are complete more studies and fundraising will begin.

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