B y Bill Toscano
Whitehall and Granville stand to reap the benefits of new collaboration between Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic.
Janet Kennedy, executive director of Lakes to Locks, said her group is holding a public event Thursday, March 3 in Albany to unveil the plans for the group’s “Geotraveler
MapGuide,” an interactive web site that local officials, museum directors, business people and resident can add themselves.
“It’s a combination of social media and a travel website,” Kennedy said. “There are a lot of opportunities for Whitehall and Granville in this. The content will be entered locally, and I think it can have an exponential impact on small businesses and other attractions. It’s grassroots, home-grown content.”
The web site will go live at the time of the Albany meeting, and Kennedy said that her group will be doing a training session in Warren County in the near future.
“It’s National Geographic-created, and it’s co-branded with Lakes to Locks,” she said. “The web site is an incredible tool the way it’s designed,” she said. “It benefits exactly the kind of tourism we have in this area, and it’s a tool that could be of use to local residents as well.”
Lakes to Locks Passage involves the communities along the interconnected waterway of the Upper Hudson River, Champlain Canal, Lake George, Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. This project has been funded through a Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byway Program, with matching funds provided by the NYS Department of Transportation. It runs from Troy to Rouses Point, NY. With an agreement with the province of Quebec, it continues to Sorel on the St. Lawrence River,
Kennedy said that for her, the National Geographic brand, including its iconic yellow-bordered box, gives Lakes to Locks an added cachet and will put the region out in the forefront in the growing world of “geotourism.” As Kennedy explains the term, it pertains to a travel experience that contributes to the economic health of communities by enhancing the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.
In a press release announcing the collaboration, Kennedy had the following comment.
“Through this collaboration, we link the established destinations to the special places that are hidden away in our small communities. Local residents and visitors are invited to nominate the landmarks, attractions, activities, events and even local foods that define the region’s character and distinctive appeal.”
Lakes to Locks Passage residents, community organizations, and tourism businesses are asked to identify the things that local people love best – those ‘must see’ landmarks, attractions, activities, events, shops and even local food, that define the region’s character and appeal. Locally owned and operated businesses that are distinctive, and capture the region’s unique character, are invited to be included by completing an online nomination form.
Obviously, non-profit groups will be included as part of the guide, but the Map Guide program also focuses on “for profit business, hinging on the answer to this question:
“Is this business distinctive to our town, area or region, and is it authentic to Lakes to Locks Passage?”
Lakes to Locks will provide information and decals to selected businesses, as well as print materials to distribute to visitors about the community. Digital graphic materials will be available from Lakes to Locks Passage, and cross-links of websites is highly encouraged.
The topic of promotion of local museums and historical sites came up at a recent tourism meeting hosted by Sen. Betty Little. Kennedy first mentions the collaboration there, after Pember Library and Museum director Patricia Wesner brought up the idea of local chambers of commerce doing more to promote local sites.
Some of the categories of “for-profit” businesses in the Map Guide include specialty markets, food and drink, accommodations, experiences and recreation and transportation and travel routes.
National Geographic Map Guide projects have been published for Appalachia, Baja California, the Central Cascades, Crown of the Continent (Alberta, British Columbia, Montana), Greater Yellowstone, Guatemala, the Redwood Coast of California, the Vilcanota Valley in Peru, Sierra Nevada of California, Sonoran Desert (Arizona and Sonora, Mexico), and the city of Montreal.
The Crown of the Continent site is at www.crownofthecontinent.net.