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Things looking up in Wilmington

September 14, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - Sitting in a comfortable wicker chair at the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau, operations manager Michelle Preston listed some of the many improvements this community has seen over the past decade, including new businesses and construction projects.

She credits Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston for spearheading the growth in town. Two Prestons, yes, husband and wife.

"I try not to brag about him too much because I don't want to sound biased or anything, but it is definitely within the last 10 years that he's been supervisor, there's no doubt this town has changed," Michelle said. "Everything from the beautification to the morale of the town. I think that we're a true community. From working in the visitors bureau, the number of people that I see come in that visited eight or 10 years ago, and they come back and say, 'Wow, this is a completely different town. It looks fantastic.'"

Article Photos

Michelle Preston, operations manager of the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

Just in the last several years, there's a list of accomplishments in Wilmington that can be credited to Wilmington town employees, board members and the supervisor, support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, residents, business owners, local employees and developers.

"Aside from the ongoing beautification projects with new signage, lampposts and flowers, we have several new businesses that have just opened up in town or will be opening up in town," Michelle said.

After the Wilson Farms convenience store at the corner of Springfield Road and state Route 86 closed in the spring of 2013, it left the town without a gas station. Roy and Becky Holzer stepped up and invested in their business, the Little Super Market, to install gas pumps there, which opened in December 2014. The Wilson Farms closure also left a vacant lot, which is now occupied again.

"That property has been a work in progress for the last couple of years and it took what used to be an eyesore in town and made it a beautiful building with lots of activities," Michelle said. "It's directly across the street from my office, so all day long I see activities over there."

The property is now home to two businesses: ADK Pizza and Pasta and Bear Den Coffee and Gifts. Other business development includes the Whiteface Chalet, which will soon become the Hotel Whiteface, complete with a restaurant; the Adirondack Spruce Lodge (the former Mel's Diner and Green Mountain Motor Lodge); Wilderness Van, a vintage Volkswagen Westfalia rental service owned by Jim and Amanda Grant ("be your own guide and explore on your own terms with all the comfort of home"); and the Pourman's Tap House at the "Four Corners."

"Every town needs a good pub that you can go to that's a local hangout, and they do a tremendous amount of business and have live music every Saturday evening," Michelle said.

The Pourman's Tap House opened on Dec. 29, 2016 at the former Holiday Lodge property, which was purchased by the Holzers in 2013, renamed Whiteface Corners and is expected to be renovated someday to offer retail space and room rentals.

"We're not sure exactly of all of the plans yet for the corner," Michelle said. "Roy Holzer ... has always got something up his sleeve, new ideas and everything, so we're excited to see exactly what is going to happen once he is finished with that project."

Behind the Wilmington Community Center - where the town offices share a space with the High Peaks Health Center - the Elizabethtown Community Hospital is currently building a new 3,000-square-foot health center. Construction began in the spring and is expected to be complete in the fall.

In a press release in June, Matt Nolan, vice president and chief operating officer at the Elizabethtown Community Hospital, said, "The current space is very small, making it challenging for both patients and clinical staff to move throughout the space efficiently."

ECH has owned and operated the health center since 2008, providing access to primary care services to residents. In 2017, the center had more than 2,500 patient visits.

Capital improvements in the town include the replacement of the bridge over the West Branch of the AuSable River, which was completed in May 2015; millions of dollars worth of upgrades to the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and Whiteface Memorial Highway (new elevator currently being replaced at the castle near the summit); and ongoing beautification projects around town and at the town beach.

"All of the beautiful light posts that are through town, we have very talented town employees that have built those," Michelle said. "They do that during their down time in the winter. If they're not plowing roads, they're in the shop building the lights to install the following spring."

Park-like improvements at the bridge include a sculpture of a mountain bike made by a town employee and the Fran Betters Memorial Project, featuring sculptures of a 7-foot-long brook trout and Betters's AuSable Wulff, Bomber and Haystack fishing flies.

Workers are currently reinforcing the dam, putting in a new gate to help regulate the water levels and fixing a retainer wall.

New and improved mountain biking trails have been the result of a partnership with the town, state and Barkeater Trails Alliance. That has resulted in the creation of the Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival, which is held over Labor Day weekend.

In the spring, First Columbia began phase II of the Owaissa Club Townhomes development near the town beach, building six new townhomes and three bedroom units. They should be done this fall, and phase III could begin by the end of the year, according to a June 1 press release.

With a variety of public and private entities investing in the town of Wilmington - and more and more people building and buying homes here - Michelle Preston is quick to give a lot of credit to her fellow community members for all their hard work and support.

"A lot of the business owners in town have taken the initiative to spruce up, and even some of the local residents are taking more pride in their community," she said.



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