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The idea of being in that beautiful a spot, with nature readily available, is extremely therapeutic.

Patriot Hills vets retreat looking for a home

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Organizers of the Patriot Hills at Saranac Lake project are looking at a resort on Lower Saranac Lake as a possible home for their proposed retreat and reintegration center for veterans, soldiers and their families.

Patriot Hills officials have met with the owners of the Ampersand Bay Resort and Boat Club and an adjacent, undeveloped property. But a deal seems unlikely soon, as the nascent organization is still working to raise funds -- and its profile. Chris Knight reports.

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

Patriot Hills Board President Bob Ross said the Ampersand Bay Resort is one of several sites they've considered as a future home for project, though he stressed that no decisions have been made.

"Part of what we're trying to accomplish is a place for veterans and active-duty soldiers to go and get a chance to reconnect and establish opportunities for recreation, counseling and other program activities. The idea of being in that beautiful a spot, with nature readily available, is extremely therapeutic."

The Ampersand Bay Resort is currently listed at $13.5 million. The property includes 15 three-bed condominiums, 12 cottages and 1,000 feet of shoreline. Patriot Hills is also interested in a neighboring, undeveloped parcel listed at $850,000.

Margie Philo of Adirondack Premier Properties in Lake Placid is the real estate broker for both properties.

"We are currently exploring it and discussing it, and have hopes that this will be a wonderful situation for the entire community," Philo said. "At this time I can't discuss any specifics of the negotiations, but I hope an announcement will be forthcoming."

But the details of how Patriot Hills could afford to pay for the two properties remains unclear. The group has so far only raised $50,000 and its request for $3 million in federal funding was not included in next year’s Defense Department budget.

Patriot Hills Executive Director Susan Waters  said having Patriot Hills linked to a specific location could make fundraising easier. But she said the organization has a long way to go.

"The Patriot Hills at Saranac Lake board hasn’t approved any motions concerning real estate. We’re still tramping through the tall grass to piece this together and generate public and private support.”

Supporters of the project remain optimistic. They see Patriot Hills as something that will build on Saranac Lake's history as a pioneering health resort. Margie Philo said it could also provide a significant boost to the area's economy.

"Patriot Hills will be one of the best things to happen to Saranac Lake in over 100 years, no matter where it's located," Philo said. "It will bring tons of economic gain for the area - families coming, jobs. I do think it will be one of the best things to happen to the Adirondacks." 

As the search for a location has been going on, Patriot Hills has been working to raise awareness of the project and host programs for active-duty soldiers and veterans.

The Ampersand Bay Resort provided lodging for 33 people who attended a Patriot Hills trauma resiliency training in October.

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