TUPPER LAKE - The new president of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce, Adam Boudreau, says it's time to begin promoting Tupper Lake.
The chamber held a meeting last Thursday at The Wild Center museum to outline a new vision for Tupper Lake. Town, village and chamber board members were there, along with several local business owners.
"There were a lot of sweeping reforms, and I was afraid that it would seem a little blunt to a lot of people," Boudreau said. "There were some concerns about funding, but for the most part it was really well received. Everyone seemed excited about what it could bring."
Boudreau asked the board members if they agree that tourism is the vehicle to promote a sustainable economy in Tupper Lake and if the marketing and advertising of Tupper Lake has been properly invested in over the last few decades.
"When discussing marketing and advertising efforts over the last few years, I often hear the same statements over and over," Boudreau told attendees. "'We don't have the tax base and budget of the neighboring municipalities,' or, 'Tupper Lake isn't Lake Placid.' I don't agree with these sentiments. I firmly believe these are cop-outs. We automatically hold ourselves to a lesser standard, and we cite population, historical events and budget constraints as the reasoning behind it. That thinking is dangerous and poisonous, and I think we are currently seeing the repercussions of these beliefs."
At the core of Boudreau's speech was a dire need to change the way marketing and advertising for Tupper Lake is handled. The chamber, he said, is spread too thin.
"Even considering the municipal support for the marketing position, somehow the burden of marketing and advertising our entire area remains on the chamber, with no actual marketing budget," Boudreau told attendees. "We are still expected to raise enough revenue to produce major destination events and all the while juggle the responsibility to our members, which should be primary. In essence we are serving two masters, three if you split the government into the town and village, with essentially very little funding."
Boudreau said that he isn't discounting the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort project, which is still awaiting a decision in the state Supreme Court before construction begins, but he said Tupper Lake needs to stop waiting and begin moving forward on its own.
To make that happen, Boudreau proposed contracting with an organization like the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.
"This is going to be a request for a proposal that's open to anybody," Boudreau said. "As a chamber, with the research we've done, our board favors ROOST. The term we're really attracted to is the destination planning."
At the meeting, the town and village boards asked the chamber to develop a request for proposal and submit it to them at their next meetings.
Village Mayor Paul Maroun said he could see the potential benefits of regional tourism planning.
"When you talk about Tupper Lake, and then you look and see ROOST has all of Essex County and now they're in Hamilton County, there's one little red dot that's not a part of it, and it's Tupper Lake," Maroun said. "We're now talking about drafting a joint letter with the (town) supervisor to get this moving."
Town Councilman Mike Dechene said all he has to do is look at ROOST's impact in other communities to see the benefits of contracting with them.
"We're surrounded by this ROOST group, and Tupper Lake is left out of the circle," Dechene said. "Look at Saranac Lake. The motels are coming in, and there's a lot of energy there. You drive through Long Lake in the middle of summer, and you can't move."
Dechene added that there's no reason Tupper Lake can't have some of that attention.
"We have everything they have," Dechene said. "We have some of the best paddling in the North Country. I know the town has to be involved. We have to come together. We are Tupper Lake, no matter if it's the village or the chamber. I think people are ready for it."
Town Councilman John Quinn said he left the meeting feeling encouraged, particularly by the fact that the town and village boards were at the same table.
In the future, Quinn said he'd like to see more cooperation and crossover between the two municipalities. He said that could lead to more cohesive planning and consolidation of resources.
"I thought it was almost historic that the village and town came together like that," Quinn said. "I think it would be a good idea for the town and village to begin sending a member to each other's meetings. I'd be happy to do that, maybe on a rotating basis, so everyone could get to experience it."
Village Trustee Rick Donah also left the meeting feeling encouraged and said the meeting could be the beginning of marketing all of the events and recreational opportunities in the region.
"They're trying to change the status quo," Donah said. "With the new members, there's now a new group that are on the chamber board that have some bold ideas. The chamber is now moving in a more strategic direction."
Donah said Tupper Lake also needs to receive more support from Franklin County.
"The next step is going to be having a frank conversation with Franklin County and the Tourism Advisory Committee," Donah said. "I think, along with a lot of other politicians in Tupper Lake, that we don't see enough support from the (county) legislature. We don't see any support from them. We don't feel like there's a lot of synergy right now."
Piercefield town Supervisor and owner of PBR Builders and Boulevard Wine and Liquors Neil Pickering attended the meeting and said taking a regional approach will benefit everyone in the region.
"I like the fact that we're going to work together with Saranac Lake and Lake Placid," Pickering said. "I've always felt that Tupper needed to make that connection. We get a lot of people passing through, but we need to get them to stay."
Pickering said Boudreau's presentation made him eager to get involved.
"This is an overall plan, and it's going to work," Pickering said. "I've lived here my whole life, and I walked out of there more excited than I've been in a long time. I'm excited about the group that's leading this."
Boudreau said encouraging people to get involved is essential to gathering more momentum for Tupper Lake to move forward. He urged everyone to get involved by contacting the chamber, attending meetings and becoming part of the conversation.
"I'm making a plea to the community," Boudreau said. "We are at a critical stage right now. We need people to get involved, and we want to hear their voices."