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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 30, 2006

Honor your history while embracing your future

Take a stroll down Altamont’s Main Street and you will see beautifully preserved Victorian buildings.

Last week, we ran a story and picture about the recent donation of a $140 bronze plaque to the Altamont Free Library. The librarian and library board members posed proudly alongside the plaque with the president and a board member — sporting a bowler hat — of Altamont Community Tradition.

ACT has kicked off the program to increase public awareness of Altamont’s historic buildings and encourage their preservation.

The train station at the center of the village, which will become the library’s home, was a good place to start. The village as we know it grew up around the Delaware & Hudson station and it remained a center of Altamont life as workers made their daily commute to the city and as visitors traveled to the base of the Helderbergs for a respite from city life.

Although the trains stopped running long ago, the old building will once again become a humming community center when the library moves in. Besides the expected commerce of ideas that comes in a place where books and people are gathered, Altamont’s mayor is hoping to push information exchange to a new level, installing high-speed wireless Internet.

Beginning with a wireless router in the village park, which borders the library, Mayor James Gaughan hopes to eventually expand the services from the park to the whole village. His goal is to have Altamont become the first wireless village in the state.

"It makes a lot of sense to be involved," Altamont librarian Judith Wines told us. "We’re always psyched to support something that helps connect people to information."

The library started broadcasting wireless Internet inside its building last fall, shortly after Wines came on. It has eased competition for the library’s four computer workstations, said Wines, who teaches computer courses at the library.

So preserving an historic building, as the library plans to do with the train station, doesn’t mean its function can’t be cutting-edge.

We’re pleased the volunteers in ACT are pushing plaques; it will help make village history visible. We hope the homes and businesses along Main Street will display their dates as proudly as our newspaper does its 121-year history near the top of page one each week.

The owners of historic properties don’t need to gather the information for the plaques, said board member Linda Cure; ACT will do it for them. We hope many villagers participate and, once the information is gathered, we hope it is posted on the village website so everyone can learn more about Altamont’s history.

Understanding our history is key to planning our future.

We’re pleased that a committee is currently working to draft a comprehensive plan for the village’s future, something Altamont has never had and we have long advocated.

The committee is eager to involve current residents and businesses in the process. Saturday, over 800 invitations to complete surveys were distributed the old-fashioned way — by hand — through the work of local boy Scouts and their families. The surveys can be filled out on-line at the village website, wwww.altamontvillage.com, or on paper. Paper surveys are available at Village Hall and will be handed out by volunteers to those without computers.

The committee has high hopes for widespread response. "The Village of Altamont Comprehensive Plan committee wants to beat the odds with a goal of over half of Altamont residents, businesses, and landowners participating in its comprehensive-plan survey between March 25 and April 12," writes committee member Kristen Casey in a letter to us this week.

"Would you like to see more activities for teens in the community"" she asks. "Where do you feel new sidewalks should be placed" What kind of new housing do you feel there should be in the area, if any"

"Are there particular new businesses you would like to see in the village" How about activities at Bozenkill Park" Or senior programs""

We urge citizens to respond to the survey and to attend the public sessions that follow. This is, after all, your village.

As you take that stroll down Main Street, besides admiring the Victorian architecture, you will also see a mix of businesses and residences that modern planners consider ideal.

Restaurants, convenience stores, a bank, a funeral home, a butcher shop, an art gallery and knitting shop, a beauty shop and more are mixed in with homes, forming a community that allows healthful interchange. It’s not a coincidence that Community Caregivers was born in Altamont. Its byword — lend a neighbor a helping hand — is part of everyday life in a tight-knit community.

Clustered developments with services that residents can walk to are precisely what the best of modern planners are trying to develop. We already have that model in place; it’s been working for over a century. Let us honor it by participating in its preservation.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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