Rouses Point has been in a state of struggle for what will be seven years in January, since Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, currently known as Pfizer announced it’s closure. Since then, local businesses, along with residents have been driven out of the village of Rouses Point, due to a declining economy. Walking through Rouses Point, there are “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs decorating a depressing amount of yards and building windows.
Surprisingly, even in this state locals have not given up a search for relief. Village Trustee, Rebecca Reid works hand in hand with the board and locals on a revitalization plan that has been in tact since 2003 and implemented in 2006. Reid explains, “Rouses Point has been working with several grants to do revitalization for the area. They are working on the D and H Project which will restore our train station ...They are also working on getting some micro enterprise grants to bring small businesses into the area. It will help low to moderate income families start up a business. And there are several other projects that are in the works going on. We have a bike path coming in that will connect Rouses Point to Champlain eventually.” The village has also worked with a Waterfront Revitalization Plan along with the downtown plan that involved the new scenic pier on Montgomery St, the shoreline walkways, among various ongoing projects. These plans are designed to restore building fronts, bring in local businesses, and increase local tourism. To facilitate and secure progress for incoming businesses Rouses Point has made partnerships with the North Country Chamber of Commerce as well as Small Business Development Center.
Locals have also formed groups such as the Beautification Committee and The Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society to restore and beautify the village. The Historical Society’s is currently working on turning the D and H Rail Road station located on Pratt St, into a museum. Mary Racicot, Vice President of the Historical Society, has been involved with the project from the beginning and expresses her enthusiasm about finally seeing it take off. “We are so excited that stimulus funds were available and that we are going to have our station done. It’s been a long time in coming.”
The funding for the D and H Railroad Project has been a concern of several locals in this community. However, Reid clarifies that, “We’re pulling all the moneys from grants. Some people say that it’s tax payers’ money spent ill and the money’s there, the state’s offering it. It’s for revitalization. It’s there for all towns in New York to to go out and grab it. So, by Rouses Point going out and grabbing it, we’re not costing our tax payers any more money. We’re bringing something into the town. We’re making something out of it.” She also states that Pratt Street will be restored with under ground electricity and new lighting to match Lake Street. This will appeal to guests from the D and H rail road and draw them towards Lake Street and ultimately, Lake Champlain.
To increase further tourism as well as boost community morale the Friends of the Stage group has built a new stage called “The Samuel de Champlain Center Stage” at the Rouses Point Civic Center. This stage is used for a variety of events called The Summer Concert Series. Groups from community theaters, bands, improv comedy groups, and even local celebrity Scott Merchant have performed there this summer. “It brings people to Rouses Point and it gives the young people and the old people, older people something to do. I think that it’s important...Well this gets people to come to Rouses Point and gets people to enjoy just a nice evening.” Locals such as Reid, Racicot, and Historian Donna Racine feel events like this will increase tourism which is a key point in the plan for revitalization.
Racine is a long time native to Rouses Point. She has seen it grow into what it is today. When it comes to revitalizing a place she has always called home she states, “It’s going to take a practical eye, it’s going to take a lot of know how, and I think heart...Rouses Point has a heart beat...and it has a pulse and if you feel that pulse you’re going to be good for this village.”