Join us in improving community self-reliance

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to our community.

While it was incredibly generous of The Altamont Enterprise, and Marcello [Iaia] in particular, to spend so much time investigating the state of small business in the Hilltowns, several of us thought a response might be in order.

As one customer astutely put it: This article read like an obituary. While I don’t think our situation was colored in quite that dismal a light, it seems appropriate to point out some of the reasons to celebrate the Hilltowns.

While we have lost many businesses, we in Medusa are still here (www.medusageneralstore.blogspot.com). Our counterparts, such as Amanda’s Hilltown Diner, the Palmer House Café, and West Winds in Rensselaerville and Preston Hollow are still around.

Stakeholders like the Carey Center that have the potential to help change happen are active in our community, through their on-the-ground support for agriculture, and local brewing in particular. Grassroots groups, such as our Sustainable Hilltowns group, and the Helderberg Hilltowns Association, are committed to boosting the local economy, supporting the arts, and addressing long-term sustainability issues.

There are many passionate, engaged people, here in our Hilltown communities, who are committed to our community’s future, and I encourage you to join their ranks.

And we have had some success already — the talks we hold are enormously well-attended. (And there are three more coming up at MedusaFest on May 3!) Participation and interest in developing strategies that improve our community self-reliance is increasing dramatically.

Sustainable Hilltowns (join us on Facebook!) is actively pursuing grant opportunities that will help us design plans to increase agricultural opportunities here “on the Hill,” as well as working with the HHA to help promote our region as a fantastic rural resource for tourists. We plan to host a summit of our local leaders to discuss issues of food self-sufficiency, the state of local business (and what we can do to improve the environment for rural independent enterprises), and how to build social capital through gatherings, festivals, and community arts events.

Bottom line, though: Only invested people can rebuild a community.

I think we have a shared vision — I think most folks embrace the idea of thriving villages with bustling business sectors; healthy local food systems; and an engaged, active citizenry. But it’s going to take people to make the choice to walk the talk of being locals — to spend their dollars in our region, to spend their time and energy working and playing in our villages and recreational areas.

It really isn’t rocket science, folks — but it also isn’t an easy sell for some of you. We need your commitment that you’ll forgo that trip to Walmart, and instead eat lunch at the Palmer House and hike a trail at the Huyck Preserve — or maybe spend time at some programs at our local libraries, or cycle our villages, or hang out on the porch sipping coffee and enjoying the company of your neighbors at one of our corner stores.

But you need to choose, and sooner rather than later, because this sort of change isn’t going to happen with wishful thinking alone.

April Caprio
Co-owner, Medusa General Store

Co-founder, Sustainable Hilltowns

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