A curious invitation

Part 1 of 2

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

We obviously want our hometown to prosper and want to spread the word about how great it is, but we have to admit, we had mixed feelings when Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release on June 2 urging all New Yorkers to visit Lake Placid this summer.

He didn’t give a general message about New York’s many great vacation destinations, or do separate plugs for other tourism regions such as Niagara Falls, the Catskills, the Thousand Islands, the Finger Lakes or Long Island’s beaches. He also didn’t mention any other parts of the Adirondacks — just Lake Placid. Weird, huh?

“Hey, we’ll take it,” would be the reaction of a lot of local people. That’s half of our reaction, too. We definitelty appeciate that the governor sees this area as being worthy of special promotion.

But here’s the other half, in two parts:

1. Lake Placid doesn’t need the boost as much as many other places do. Its tourism engine is already churning, whereas other Adirondack towns struggle to get theirs going, yet are left with few other economic options. Over the last 20 years, at least, the state has bestowed a great deal of money and attention on the Lake Placid area — upgrading Whiteface Mountain and building a conference center, for example — and at the same time, the economic gap between Lake Placid and other Adirondack towns has widened dramatically. The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, which is rooted in Lake Placid, realized years ago that Lake Placid’s core attraction is not its enduring sports legacy but the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park in which it lies. Why not just plug the Adirondacks as a whole, telling visitors they have a wide array of places to stay and play in an area bigger than all of Vermont?

2. The most popular parts of the backcountry are being loved to death. Visitors don’t just choose Lake Placid because it has so much in the way of hotels, restaurants, shopping and events. They also love that it is nestled among the state’s biggest mountains, offering probably the Adirondacks’ most dramatic landscape. In summer, Adirondack visitors want to hike, but the more people who come to Lake Placid, the more who hike the same mountains nearby, such as Cascade, Marcy, Algonquin, Giant, etc. Those trails are getting pounded, human waste and garbage are accumulating in the woods, and there are more unprepared people in the wilderness, including more who need forest rangers to rescue them. Last year, it reached a point where everyone seems to agree it’s a problem. Somehow, the people and officials of the Adirondackers need to spread visitors out more, to step up trail manintenance work and to increase staff at the state Department of Environmental Conservation so it can deal with the rescues, prepare for the crowds and educate people about outdoor ethics and best practices.

Thankfully, the DEC is on it, doing what it can with what it has. More on that tomorrow.