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Destination management planning begins

Goal is to ensure quality of life for residents, quality of place for visitors

Ironman Lake Placid triathletes compete during the 2019 event in Lake Placid. Here they are heading into the village on state Route 86 from Wilmington. (News photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — The process of drafting a destination management plan that would balance quality of life for residents and quality of place for visitors in the village of Lake Placid and town of North Elba began earlier this month with the first meeting of the DMP Steering Committee.

The May 4 virtual meeting on Zoom was hosted by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the marketing organization for Lake Placid and Essex County, Hamilton County, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Piercefield. ROOST is adding destination management to its mission this year.

“We’re doing this, we feel, at a very good time because the town and the village will be entering shortly in their comprehensive plan for the region. Our goal is to tie it all together so that we all have a direction,” ROOST CEO Jim McKenna said during the meeting. “Identifying the number one beneficiaries should be the residents at all times. So that’s what we hope to accomplish with this destination management plan.”

ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence moderated the meeting, and Steering Committee members were joined by a few staffers from MMGY NextFactor, the travel consulting firm in West Vancouver, British Columbia, hired to write the plan. NextFactor has helped facilitate destination management plans for communities such as Breckenridge in Colorado, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, Haliburton Highlands in Ontario and Washtenaw in Michigan.

In short, a destination management plan is designed to protect communities from the negative effects of tourism.

The Breckenridge plan will be used as a model for the Lake Placid/North Elba plan; however, McKenna noted that the Adirondack Park is a unique destination.

“We’re a drive destination with a significant amount of the northeast U.S. population and the southeast Canadian population close in. We are a five- to six-hour drive for over a hundred million people who are looking for outdoor recreation,” McKenna said. “I think we’re going to be challenged more in the future with the number of people who want to get to an area like this than we have been in the past.”

Some of Breckenridge’s four DMP goals may be adopted here, McKenna has said previously, including its vision: “Harmony of quality of life for residents and quality of place for visitors.” Its goals are to 1) deliver a balanced year-round economy driven by destination tourism by 2024; 2) Elevate and fiercely protect Breckenridge’s authentic character and brand — our hometown feel and friendly atmosphere; 3) More boots and bikes, less cars; and 4) Establish Breckenridge at the leading edge in mountain environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.

Donna Beal, executive director for Mercy Care for the Adirondacks, said during the meeting that she hopes Lake Placid’s DMP includes age-friendly goals.

“It is a community that is friendly to people of all ages across the lifespan,” she said.

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said during the meeting that he appreciated being part of the process.

“I think that an investment in the people who live and work here year round is critical,” Catania said. “At the school system, we see the widest range of children that reflect our local community, and I just hope that this will consider that. Doing what’s best for our families and our kids is going to be what’s best for our community and our local industry of tourism.”

Steering Committee

The DMP Steering Committee will have three primary roles: to provide strategic guidance on the project; establish priorities for goals and initiatives; and be a champion in the region for the plan and implementation.

As of the meeting, the members of the DMP Steering Committee were Jim McKenna, CEO, ROOST; Mary Jane Lawrence, chief operating officer, ROOST; Haley Breen, community development director, town of North Elba/village of Lake Placid; Dean Dietrich, chairman, Lake Placid/North Elba Community Development Commission; Emily Politi, councilor, town of North Elba; Jackie Kelly, trustee, village of Lake Placid; Mike Pratt, CEO, state Olympic Regional Development Authority; Lori Fitzgerald, president, Lake Placid Business Association; Colleen Holmes, Engel & Volkers Real Estate; Lisa Lester, High Peaks Resort; George Leveille, Summit Lacrosse; Roger Catania, superintendent, Lake Placid Central School District; Seth Jones, education director, Adirondack Mountain Club; Sylvia Getman, CEO, Adirondack Health; Bill Moore, chief, Lake Placid Police Department; Brad Hathaway, superintendent, Lake Placid Department of Public Works; Tom Broderick, associate head of school, Northwood School; Joe Barile, Far Horizon; Donna Beal, executive director, Mercy Care for the Adirondacks; James Lemons, executive director, Lake Placid Center for the Arts; Tom Connors, formerly of Workshop; Ashley Walden, executive director, Adirondack Sports Council; Brendan Wiltse, water quality director, Adirondack Watershed Institute; Peter Bauer, executive director, Protect the Adirondacks; Butch Martin, manager, North Elba Park District; and Catherine Bemis, principal, St. Agnes School.

The process

When the process is complete, Lake Placid and North Elba will have a “long-term road map that prioritizes efforts and investments to drive sustainable visitor growth” and:

– Diversifies the local economy and the opportunities that it provides;

– Elevates the region as a desirable place to live, work, visit and invest; and

– Enhances the overall well-being and resilience of the community.

Focus groups will include community leaders and entrepreneurs; economic, community and nonprofit organizations; accommodations and short-term rentals; food and beverage; outdoor recreation and environment; sports tourism; arts, culture and heritage; and meetings, festivals and events.

Interviews will be conducted with leaders in government; economic development; community groups; environment groups; diversity organizations; educational institutions; indigenous groups; accommodations; food and beverage; sports and outdoor recreation; arts, culture and heritage; meetings, festivals and events; and tech and young entrepreneurs.

Phase 1 includes a thorough analysis of existing public and private sector development plans, visitor and economic development data, government program data and an in-depth analysis of tourism and marketing trends.

Phase 2 is described as a “critical process to identify the convergence of infrastructure, assets and experiences in the region.” The MMGY NextFactor team will speak with local public and private organizations developing other strategic plans in the region.

Phase 3 will identify opportunities and challenges relating to existing infrastructure, assets and experiences in the region, plus future developments. The MMGY NextFactor team will speak with stakeholders inside and outside the tourism industry.

Phase 4 will be a public forum where residents can give feedback on the destination management plan.

“This is where all of the research, analysis, industry and community engagement and strategic deliverables to take shape,” according to the May 4 presentation.

Phase 5 will be the formal development of the destination management pan.

The Steering Committee’s second meeting is expected to be held in July, followed by a visioning workshop in September and a review of the draft plan in October.

Lake Placid’s DMP is expected to be updated every five years.