ANCRAM—How are tourists supposed to flock to Ancram if they don’t know where it is?
Despite its sleepy, bucolic appearance this 27,000-acre town, where about 1,500 people live in the southeastern corner of Columbia County, is a happening place.
As Councilman Hugh Clark pointed out at the August 15 Town Board meeting, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, numerous other hiking opportunities and attractions, including the increasingly well-known Ancram Opera House, the town swimming pool and a variety of organized bike rides, are all contributing to the town’s economic development and the presence of visitors or vacationers here.
But where is here?
“There is no there there,” Mr. Clark said at the meeting, because there are no signs to tell people where they are.
Hiking trails abound in the Taconic State Park, including on Alander Mountain and the Columbia Land Conservancy’s Overmountain Public Conservation Area encompassing 1,700 acres that cover Round Ball Mountain, Fox Hill and Kite Hill. Additionally, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail is currently undergoing construction to complete the eight-mile trail section that runs from the Village of Millerton in Dutchess County and would link it to Under Mountain Road in Ancram.
But people not familiar with the area and who come to use local trails or roads are probably not aware of what town they are in.
Even people who live in Ancram don’t always have an Ancram address. Sure, there are Ancram and Ancramdale, but some town residents have mailing addresses in Millerton, Pine Plains and Copake.
Ancram currently has some small, old, 1-by-1-foot Bicentennial signs, which “do not have the impact on the eye or the mind” to make a difference, Mr. Clark told The Columbia Paper in a follow-up phone call this week.
But Ancram’s anonymity could be remedied with the placement of new welcoming road signs at each of the town’s gateways.
The town has already commissioned the design of these signs and had one made and installed on County Route 7, coming into Ancram from Gallatin to the west.
Designed by Denise Drever and presented at the February 2017 Town Board meeting, the signs are 3 by 5-feet in size and say, “Welcome to scenic Ancram…Historic farming community.” Each sign has a white line drawing of a barn with a silo set amid rolling hills on a mellow green background.
But since that initial sign was installed, others have not followed, primarily because permission for sign placement is needed from landowners who have property situated near each of the remaining town gateways: County Route 7 from the east, state Route 22, county Route 8, county Route 3 and state Route 82, according to Councilwoman Madeleine Israel, Communications Committee chair, who spearheaded the sign effort.
Recently, permission was secured from three additional property owners for placement of the signs and three more will be ordered. Each sign costs $300 installed, Ms. Israel said by phone. They are made of marine plywood with a special sealant coating and are expected to last 20 to 25 years.
The impetus for the signs comes from the town’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan. Under the Summary of Goals and Strategies for Community Character the plan calls for enhancement of “Ancram’s gateways with specially designed welcome signs,” said Councilman Clark.
The plan later gives a detailed strategy: “Enhance the community gateways or ‘welcome’ signs, with landscaping, lighting, and special signage. Gateways can establish a theme and can include signs, sculptures or historic objects.”
In addition to letting Ancram’s visitors know where they are, Mr. Clark also voiced concern that they have somewhere to park when they get here. He said he has seen cars parked along the roadsides because there is not adequate parking associated with the rail trail or bicycle tour events.
Asked why it’s important for people to know they are in Ancram, Mr. Clark noted, “because if you want them to come back, they have to know where they’ve been.”
The next Ancram Town Board meeting takes place Thursday, September 19. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a fond-farewell reception for retiring Assessor Ken Leggett, followed by a public hearing on the tentative 2020 budget at 6:45 p.m. and the regular meeting at 7 p.m.