Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes, Watkins Glen serves as a gateway to more than thirty Seneca Lake wineries and visitor-friendly farms. As the county seat, the Village is a regional center of activity and is also home to a diverse tourism base and multiple waterfront uses. Community residents and business persons have led efforts to create a quaint, historic downtown, and preserve the natural environment as well as support the economic engine that is Watkins Glen International racetrack. The stunning site at the southern end of Seneca Lake, directly located on the State Canal system, provides picturesque opportunities for recreational boating and an unforgettable visitor experience.
Over the past decade, local leaders identified new opportunities to showcase the Village’s waterfront location. One such step was to develop a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) with the Department of State (DOS), in collaboration with the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, Schuyler County Planning Department, village officials and local volunteers. The LWRP raised and addressed several issues critical to successful waterfront redevelopment-- redeveloping a lakefront site occupied by a soon-to-be-decommissioned wastewater treatment plant; identifying opportunities for the northwestern gateway to the village; revitalizing downtown streetscape and business environments; improving public waterfront park space and Clute Park; and coordinating with the neighboring village of Montour Falls to cooperatively use the new intermunicipal wastewater treatment plant. A big lift for a small village… but Village stepped up to the plate!
The Local Waterfront Revitalization Program was an effective vehicle to address competing uses and the decommissioning of the wastewater treatment plant. By bringing people together, the LWRP process engaged local partners and stakeholders to define the revitalization focus area, identify priorities and create a vision for the future. The LWRP also helped the community build on existing studies and plans by providing an updated analysis of conditions, describe proposed improvement projects to advance the goals of the program, and create a new regulatory framework to ensure that privately led projects are compatible with the LWRP policies.
Defining Focus Areas
The Watkins Glen LWRP, which was approved in 2017, achieved several critical and concrete results-- a plan and policies for redevelopment of the waterfront and adjacent commercial core; strategies to implement that plan; and local laws to ensure a high-quality result for both the built and natural environments. Success in the complex world of community development is often all about the partnerships. And the Village’s LWRP generated and maintained its momentum through several valuable partnerships, including SCOPED Project Seneca, a volunteer community improvement service group, a district management association, a Waterfront Advisory Committee for the LWRP, FLX Gateway Community Development Corporation, and the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce.
Support for planning, a vision for the future and a demonstrated willingness to work towards fulfilling that vision all coalesced to help the Village to secure State funding to implement projects outlined in the LWRP, including detailed construction documents and capital improvements such as a bathhouse upgrade, a new pavilion and other enhancements at Clute Park, and improvements to the Montour Falls Marina.
The partnerships forged through the LWRP also helped the Village earn a highly coveted $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, which is now funding important projects in downtown Watkins Glen, year-round improvements to lakeside Clute Park that expand upon LWRP-funded projects and redevelopment of Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruise Terminal that will improve visual access to Seneca Lake and draw visitors from downtown.
Redevelopment has also attracted new, younger residents who provide a broader customer base and vibrancy for village businesses and community life.
You can view the Watkins Glen LWRP on the Department of State Website.