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KEENE — Gripes and grumbles filled the small post office on state Route 73 in the center of Keene on Tuesday morning, as residents from Keene and Keene Valley shuffled through the door around lunch time.
Keene Valley residents are now making the 10-mile round-trip to pick up mail after the closing of their own post office on Thursday, Oct. 28.
“It’s a real pain, to put it bluntly,” said Keene Valley resident Bill Newman. “The most frustrating thing is the lack of communication with the postal service — there wasn’t any opportunity to come up with a solution.”
Newman said making the trip to the Keene post office would take time to get used to. “It’s a question of being strategic,” he added. “I’ll probably try to stop in on my way to go shopping in Lake Placid. ... That ten mile trip is really going to add up.”
Concerns ranged from long lines inside the post office and confusion about hours of operation to the availability of parking.
“A lot of people are really frustrated about this,” said Ann Sayers, a resident of Keene. “I think the hardest thing is going to be parking ... it’s not a very big lot.”
The small lot was nearly full for a half hour stretch on Tuesday as patrons of the post office came and went. Sayers, who lives nearby, said she was going to make the effort to walk to the post office more often.
“But my heart really goes out to all those people, elderly people especially, who used to walk to the post office in Keene Valley,” she said. “People who can’t drive, like residents of the Neighborhood House.”
The Neighborhood House is roughly one tenth of a mile south of the old post office location in Keene Valley. Executive director Richard Rothestein said the closure “is going to have a big impact for our residents.”
“We had several residents — at times one or two and sometimes half a dozen — who would walk to get their mail,” he added. “It leaves them with a sense of independence.”
Rothestein said the post office closing would be a big blow, not just for the Neighborhood House, but the entire community.
“From a small town standpoint this is not a good thing at all,” he said.
Keene resident Donna Combs, who moved from Keene Valley three years ago, took a proactive approach to the change. Until the recent closure she maintained a post office box in Keene Valley — mostly because “it’s a pain to change your address” — but opted for a box in Keene last Friday.
“I really don’t think they’re ever going to open up another post office in Keene Valley, so I got a box here,” she said.
According to Maureen Marion, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Postal Service, closing the Keene Valley location and moving all service to Keene has been “an interesting transition.”
“This was something that caught a lot of us by surprise,” she said in a recent phone interview. “But the point is that we had to take prompt action to make sure that there was no interruption of service for anyone.”
Marion said the primary focus of the postal service was to “smooth out any of the rough tracks” to make sure everything is in order before the busy mailing season.
“We want to give the best service we can for Keene Valley and also residents of Keene,” she added.
Although she said there have been “many discussions,” no long-term decisions have been made about finding another location for a post office in Keene Valley.
“Nothing has been decided, but developments will accrue over time,” she said.
Keene Valley resident Anne Frieary said above all, she wished there had been more notice.
“That’s the big thing ... we didn’t have any warning,” she said. “The government really dragged its feet.”
The Keene post office where Keene Valley residents now must pick up their mail — a 10-mile round trip.
Photo/Eric Voorhis/Lake Placid News