Today, Clayton is described as the “Gateway to the Thousand Islands.” With its approximately 15 miles of shoreline it is a major destination for fishing, boating, and sightseers. Clayton sits less than 20 miles from the start of the St Lawrence River at Lake Ontario. When Clayton updated their original 1986 Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) in 2013, the Town and Village of Clayton prepared to cooperatively take on the challenges of the 21st century- to embrace economic change and further enhance the Thousand Islands region as a highly desirable place to not only visit, but to live, work and play. The Town and Village have turned their energy and resources to one of the region’s most unique and valuable assets- its waterfront. For many in the community, the waterfront represents the past as well as the future, and an opportunity to capitalize on existing strengths while charting a new course.
Since completion of their original LWRP the Department of State (DOS) has engaged in a particularly productive partnership with Clayton to revitalize their community and protect their resources. The focus of these efforts and partnership with DOS have involved revitalization of the downtown and expansion of public access to the waterfront.
Clayton has always placed a strong emphasis on revitalization and public access of their waterfront to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. Clayton identified, within their 2013 LWRP update, a primary focus on public access and recreational enhancement, infrastructure and redevelopment projects and programs, heritage protection projects and programs, and expanding economic opportunities within the Waterfront Revitalization Area (WRA). With the flooding that devastated communities all along the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario in 2019, Clayton has also begun to examine their resiliency to a changing climate.
Since 1996 DOS has awarded ten Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (EPF LWRP) grants totaling over 2.7 million dollars to the Town and Village of Clayton for projects. These projects have focused on public access improvement and economic revitalization of the waterfront area.
Additionally, in response to the extended pattern of flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Governor Cuomo created the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. The Village and Town of Clayton are working with an interagency REDI team, including DOS, and their consultants on seven projects to increase resiliency at public waterfront locations.
Through the EPF LWRP awards, many waterfront planning and construction projects have been completed including:
- installation of a breakwater and transient docking at Memorial Park,
- construction of the Thousand Islands Regional Dock,
- site assessment and remediation feasibility analysis for the Frink America Parcel,
- professional land use planning to advance redevelopment of the Frink America property,
- renovation of the Clayton Opera House ,
- design and construction of the first phase of the Clayton Riverwalk along the Frink America property, and
- design and construction of the Clayton Riverwalk Pavilion in Frink Park.
Clayton also completed designs to extend the Clayton Riverwalk from Frink Park to the Clayton Monument in the center of the village’s commercial core and for overlooks and river access points along the existing Riverwalk on the Frink America Property.
Clayton’s involvement with the REDI program will result in the community being more prepared for increased climate variability. In addition to Clayton’s involvement in REDI, they are also participating in the new Coastal Lakeshore Economy and Resiliency (CLEAR) Initiative, which supports local communities dealing with persistent high-water levels and develop comprehensive resiliency strategies and plans to institute critical long-term protective measures and strengthen existing investments. Clayton will receive assistance from State experts and consulting firms to plan for a variety of scenarios and develop potential solutions that will enhance resiliency and connections to the water. The CLEAR Plans will include regional strategies and recommend local actions such as updated zoning, installation of green infrastructure, more sustainable water-dependent businesses, and the development of actions and projects that will increase the resiliency of lakeshore communities and businesses.
The projects funded in Clayton have contributed significantly to the rebirth of the village’s downtown. More recently for example, the luxury Thousand Islands Harbor Hotel opened on the former Frink America snowplow factory remediated site, adjacent to the Clayton Riverwalk. Transportation enhancements such as the streetscape improvements and the undergrounding of utilities complement this work and significantly benefit the community. DOS has been instrumental in improving recreational and cultural amenities for Clayton residents and tourists and has made a positive impact on the local resiliency, economy, and quality of life.
-You can view the Village and Town’s LWRP on the Department of State Website:
Office of Planning and Development - Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (ny.gov)
-You can find more information about the REDI Initiative on the REDI program website:
Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) | Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (ny.gov)
-REDI Project Profiles for Jefferson and St. Lawrence County REDI Projects:
REDI_Project Profiles_SJ_20191029(1).pdf (ny.gov)
-To learn more about CLEAR visit: