Land Protection Keeps This Popular Family Destination Free and Open
Sightseeing along the St. Lawrence River is one thing; actually visiting these spectacular islands is another story. Many of the islands are privately held with no public access. For both residents and visitors, this makes publicly accessible gems such as Grindstone Island Preserve particularly valuable community assets. TILT conserves over 40 percent of Grindstone Island—the fourth-largest island in the 1000 Islands—enabling residents and visitors to go birding, camping, and spending time on Potters Beach with family and friends.
Several preserves on the interior of Grindstone Island, including the Howard-Smith and Rusho Farm Preserves, protect the agricultural heritage of the island as well as sensitive habitat for various native species. There are also many amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy. Located within the preserve, Potters Beach has been a popular summertime destination for generations and is one of the only naturally occurring sandy beaches in the region. During the summer months, it is not uncommon to see lines of boats anchored off the sandy shores.
While the value of tourist visits to Potters Beach is included within the tourism analysis, the beach provides additional recreation value to residents. Using a national database of over 420 recreational studies, The Trust for Public Land determined that residents who use Potters Beach gain approximately $30 in recreational use value per visit.
All this traffic also translates into spending at local businesses. According to Rick Gregware, owner and operator of Northern Marine since 1980, 200 boats may anchor off Potters Beach over the course of a good weekend. “A lot of them are our customers,” notes Mr. Gregware, whose marina offers fuel, repairs, and other services to area boaters. “It is one of the most popular spots on this part of the River … and thanks to TILT, it is now forever public.”
Incredible open space amenities such as Grindstone Island Preserve also grow local businesses. Mike Stock, owner of Riverbay Adventure Inn, sees these spaces as critical economic assets. Mr. Stock grew up spending his summers in the region, and in 2009, enticed by the positive experiences of his youth, he moved to the 1000 Islands to purchase and begin renovating the property that became Riverbay Adventure Inn. The property now has 10 cottages where visitors from across the region can spend a night or a week along the River, as well as a boat and kayak rental business that keeps Mr. Stock and his staff busy from April through October.
“The reason why people come to the 1000 Islands is because this is a special area, full of special places,” notes Mr. Stock. “It can be ruined if not properly preserved.”