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State should bet on Paul Smith’s VIC

A snowshoer competes at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center in February 2022 during the Adirondack Snowshoe Fest. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

The Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center is deserving of backing from the state.

Looking at the lineup of events at the VIC this month alone, one can get a sense of the place it has within this community. Live music, yoga, educational walks, guided paddles and lectures — this is a place where residents and visitors learn new things, find solace and have some fun. Beyond the events, the VIC is also home to a museum, butterfly house, trails designed by Olympic biathlete John Morton and a biathlon range — crucial for the training and development of the Nordic ski team.

The vision for the future of the VIC is clear: With upgrades to its Nordic cross-country ski trails, a rebranding, more parking, more permanent structures and upgrades to its 1989 Hutchins Lodge, the hope is that the VIC would be able to host bigger sporting events, drawing spectators and athletes from around the region and beyond. And with better snowmaking abilities, the VIC would be poised to continue to offer opportunities for winter recreation despite the impacts of climate change.

“The VIC, I think, shows the greatest potential in all of Franklin County for driving tourism,” Franklin County Tourism Director Phil Hans said Monday.

We agree.

This is a plan that has the potential to benefit the entire region, improving the quality of life for residents while drawing tourism that could bring more money to local businesses and, as a result, more tax revenue for Franklin County and the state of New York. The VIC’s annual report estimates that more than 35,000 people visited the center from July 2022 to June 2023. One can imagine how many more may visit if the facilities are upgraded.

Franklin County has already pledged up to $50,000 toward engineering studies for upgrades at the VIC, provided the state awards $100,000 in grant funding for this project.

This is a preliminary step in what will likely be a multi-year effort, but the VIC is deserving of the state’s support. We hope that the state agrees and gets the ball rolling on this project.

The state does not always make the best bets when it comes to its grant programs, but we know this: The state would be wise to bet on the success of the VIC.

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