Shakespeare said “What’s past is prologue.”
Saugerties officials agree. They believe the town’s past and its ability to build upon it will lead to a prosperous future.
Mayor William Murphy says the rich history of Saugerties brings in tourist dollars that have kept it a vibrant place to live.
“This year’s Old Timers’ Day and the bed races down Partition Street brought people into the village, many who have never been here, to see what we have to offer,” he said. “The events we hold each year, such as the Garlic Festival, the Mum Festival, and Christmas in the Village, which this year was awesome, will continue to bring people here who will shop in our stores.”
And it’s the people of the village that make this a destination, Murphy added; people like Walt Hackett, who donated a fir tree from his front yard so the village could have a splendid Christmas tree.
Michael Campbell, who recently stepped down as the director of the Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “It feels great that Saugerties is really coming into its own.”
Saugerties is prospering “where neighboring communities maybe aren’t doing as well,” Campbell said.
“There’s a definite drum beat to Saugerties activities and people continue to respond to it,” he continued.
When people think of Saugerties, Campbell believes they think Garlic Festival, HITS, the year-round farmer’s market, the Fourth of July parade and fireworks, the historic house tour, the Secret Gardens tour and the expanding Cantine Field complex with the Kiwanis Ice Arena and skate park.
In addition to the things to do, it’s also the things to see which brings folks to Saugerties and keeps it vibrant, such as the historic lighthouse, the Kiersted House, Seamon Park, and Opus 40.
And while Saugerties has many things to offer, Campbell agrees with Murphy that it’s the people who are the heart and the soul of the community.
“Every year, the firemen respond to a request from the Chamber to help make the village shine during the holidays by checking and replacing the lights that outline the buildings on Main and Partition streets,” Campbell said.
“Or the village DPW responds to the Chamber’s request to install the horses or lighthouses that will be on display on the village streets for the summer,” Campbell added. “It’s that kind of generosity and energy, multiplied by the thousands of other similar examples that can be cited, that makes Saugerties what it is.”
“Saugerties has had a long history of pride in who we are,” said Marjorie Block. She should know, because she’s the village historian and was in charge of this past year’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Saugerties’ founding.
That pride in “who we are,” she said, is evident in how hard folks have worked to preserve the lighthouse, and the Kiersted House.
And the communal spirit that makes Saugerties so successful, Block said, is evident in events like the Sawyer Motors Car Show, and the Zombie Crawl.
What the future holds
When, Murphy, Campbell, and Block peer into their crystal ball and see Saugerties in 2012, they see a future of hope and of projects to be completed, but tempered with a note of caution as well.
Murphy sees federal and state funding being allocated “finally” for the village’s streetscape project, which calls for new sidewalks and crosswalks in the downtown village. “This is the fifth year we have been waiting for the money,” Murphy said. If it comes this year the project would be completed in 2013.
Another project would shore up old sewer lines. The cost of the project will be about $800,000 and paid for mostly by the state.
“I also look forward to the final completion of the Diamond Mills project, when it will be fully landscaped this spring,” Murphy added.
He promised that the village will continue to keep pressure on the state and New York City to do something about turbid water releases from the Ashokan.
Campbell said he’d like to see “continued cooperation among the town and village governments, the economic development committee, and the Chamber.
“I can’t imagine a better level of cross-cooperation among these groups,” Campbell said.
Bringing a touch of harsh reality to the feel-good tone of his interview, Campbell said one of the things that he is disappointed didn’t happen as planned last year, but hopes will happen this year, is a Chamber-conducted fundraising drive to raise money to install security cameras in sections of the town and village. The cameras would be part of an anti-gang initiative. According to local police, and the Ulster County District Attorney’s office, there are some members of the Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings living here, and Campbell believes it’s time to be proactive in combating problems that gangs can create.
“I hope that our community in 2012, which has a long history of caring for one another, does not forget to have compassion in the hard times,” Block said.
“We have so much; we are so rich here along the Sawyer’s creek. I’m a historian, not a fortune teller, but I can hope and this is mine for 2012: that we remember we are each other’s neighbor.”