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Campground proposed as way to boost Canton tourism, commerce

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CANTON — Establishing campground areas in Canton was one idea suggested to the village board this week as a possible way to boost tourism and commerce in the community.

About 20 people attended a special board meeting Tuesday night that was called to collect ideas about economic, business and community development. Several spoke during the hourlong session including members of the recently created Canton Merchants Association.

“I would like to see some creativity and some thinking outside the box,” Rainbow Crabtree, owner of Nature’s Storehouse, said. ”I would like to see the Office of Economic Development reach out to the local business community.”

Village trustees are debating whether to revise the existing structure of the economic development office. The issue may be decided at a joint town and village board meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The outcome may impact a long-time consortium agreement the village has with the town and other partners. Economic Development Director Linda M. McQuinn has an independent contract with the town through her Lisbon-based private consulting company.

Some merchants believe another person should be hired who would focus on bringing more businesses to Main Street and developing relationships with existing business owners. A 1.1-mile stretch of Main Street was reconstructed last year and enhanced with new sidewalks, benches, vintage light poles and other upgrades.

“This is a time to really promote Main Street,” Marilyn Mintener, owner of the Pear Tree gift shop, 77 Main St., said.

Canton Chamber of Commerce Director Sally A. Hill, 24 Chapel St., told trustees she constantly receives phone calls from people inquiring about camping locations and has to direct them to other nearby towns such as Waddington and Colton because Canton doesn’t offer any.

“Camping is huge,” Mrs. Hill said. “I get so many calls about this. The campgrounds are full every year.”

Bradshaw Mintener said establishing some tent campsites close to downtown, such as a portion of Canton Island, also known as Willow Island, would be helpful to Main Street merchants.

Events held at Taylor Park, Miner Street Road and the Canton Recreational Pavilion, Lincoln Street Road, don’t generate a great deal of commerce for downtown, but a campground on Main Street along the Grasse River may create more foot traffic, he said.

“I think it’s a great idea to use part of the island (for camping) and reserve the rest for picnics,” Mr. Mintener said.

Members of the newly formed Canton Merchants Association have identified 14 different Main Street building locations that are vacant and could be marketed to businesses, he said.

Robert “Bob” Washo said he feels Taylor Park is under used because it’s only open a few weeks during the summer months and for special events such as Canton Canoe Weekend.

“We’ve got this great asset on the river that’s sitting dormant most of the year,” Mr. Washo said.

Several people urged the village to do something about the vacant Jubilee grocery store that has been empty for more than a decade in the Midtown Plaza, Miner Street. The building is owned by Garry R. Cohen, a New York City developer who also owns a few other buildings in the plaza and its parking lot.

John Gray, 1 Main St., described the vacant Jubilee as a “big, black hole in the middle of downtown” and said village officials need to enforce building code regulations.

“There are code violations and a hazardous parking lot. It’s an eyesore,” Mr. Gray said.

The Rev. Michael Catanazaro, pastor at Canton’s First Presbyterian Church, said, “The time for talking with Garry Cohen is over. My take is he loves the attention.”

Richard Grover, Railroad Avenue, said creating a truck bypass to divert heavy truck traffic off Main Street would enhance downtown by reducing “the constant roar” of tractor-trailers coming through Canton. It also would make the village more conducive for pedestrians and cyclists.

Douglas Quick, Jingleville Road, said the village should conduct a market analysis and do more to assist micro-businesses.

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