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Gov. Cuomo touts snowmobiling, tourism while in Saranac Lake

From left, Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo and father Gov. Andrew Cuomo go snowmobiling in Gabriels Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

SARANAC LAKE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped by the Hotel Saranac to promote tourism and to congratulate 45th District Sen. Betty Little in her last year of service with the state Legislature.

Afterward, he went snowmobiling with his daughters and a few of their friends in Gabriels.

Cuomo promoted New York’s free snowmobiling weekend March 14 and 15 for all out-of-state and Canadian riders. Normally, non-New Yorkers must be registered with the state, which costs $100, before riding on any trails.

“That’s our message today: Snowmobiling is just another great way to be here,” he said. “That’s all it is. I don’t care if you come hiking, if you come fishing, if you come birdwatching. Just come and be here.”

He noted the state’s annual spending on I Love New York ad campaigns and snowmobile trail maintenance, which each come out to about $4 million this year.

New York has nearly 10,000 miles of snowmobile trails that are maintained and developed by more than local 200 clubs. State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said the grants Cuomo mentioned for trail maintenance are part of a program the state runs every year.

“It’s distributed by the counties to the 230 clubs that maintain our trails,” he said. “We give it out in 45 counties to 51 different organizations.”

Kulleseid said snowmobiling is a “tremendous industry” in New York, but he didn’t have any numbers on hand to support its economic importance.

According to 2018-19 state Snowmobile Unit Report, $5,159,630 was collected from 106,678 snowmobile registrations.

Cuomo said many of the successes in the North Country are due to state investments in tourism and economic development.

“When we started with the North Country, the unemployment rate was 10% and change,” he said. “Today, 5% and change, just about half.”

Unemployment rates vary by season in the North Country, with higher rates in the winter. When Cuomo was sworn in as governor in January 2011, the U.S. had not recovered from the 2008 recession, and the North Country unemployment rate was 11.3%, according to the state Department of Labor. It was 9% nationwide at the time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national and regional economy has improved since then; the last time the North Country unemployment rate was 10% was March 2013. It was as low as 4.2% in June 2019. In December 2019, the last month given, it was 5.8%. Nationally it was 3.6% this January.

Cuomo also repeated one of his common themes that his administration has invested more money in the North Country than any other. However, previous governors such as Mario Cuomo, his father, were paramount to establishing state prison jobs in this part of the state, and Gov. George Pataki was well known for tourism investments such as in winter sports venues and the Wild Center nature museum.

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