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Lake Placid closer to having destination management plan

Steering committee meets, public forum coming this fall

Members of Team Gold celebrate after winning a gold medal on April 3, 2019 during the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. The camp includes participation from members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, including John Harrington, seen here being hugged by campers. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — This community’s Destination Management Plan Steering Committee met virtually for the second time on Monday, Sept. 13 to hear an update from Greg Oates, senior vice president of innovation at MMGY NextFactor, the travel consulting firm in West Vancouver, British Columbia, hired to write the plan.

Since their first meeting on May 4, steering committee members have given Oates and his team time to do some research, speak with focus groups and collect feedback. The second meeting revealed many of those findings and some key takeaways. Nothing has been finalized yet, and MMGY NextFactor will be collecting more input from other focus groups before a public forum is held sometime in October.

The meeting was hosted by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, which is facilitating the destination management planning process for the village of Lake Placid and town of North Elba.

The goal of a destination management plan is to ensure the quality of life for residents and the quality of place for visitors.

There are five phases to writing the plan: initiation, research and analysis; assess and sector mapping; industry and community engagement; visioning workshop (public forum to provide community feedback on the proposed plan); and plan development and delivery.

Feedback

Feedback collected so far includes the following:

“I completely understand we’re a tourist town, but people here feel that locals are last in the shuffle.”

“Many people feel unheard. There is a lot of discord and resentment.”

“We all need to come to an agreement that we are a tourism economy, and deal with it.”

“We need more education about the value of tourism, including how it funds community services. The Arts Center wouldn’t exist without tourists.”

Focus groups

The focus groups that have been interviewed are accommodations and short-term rentals; arts, culture and heritage; outdoor recreation; and sports tourism.

Interviews pending are with shore owners; economic, community and nonprofit organizations; food and beverage; and meetings, festivals and events.

Arts and culture

Some of the notes from the arts and culture focus group are listed below.

– Develop the area as a destination for arts experiences, not just outdoor recreation and sporting events.

– Opportunities for enhancing public works of art (murals, sculpture, etc.) for community and visitors to interact with. Support existing organizations that are working toward these goals.

– Leverage the influx of wealth in the tourist season to find new sources of funding for arts projects and year-round educational initiatives.

– A larger performance venue would allow larger acts to be brought in, which would enhance the ability to draw people to events.

– Funding is key for both initiating and maintaining art. Funding! Staffing!

– Finding new connections with the hospitality sector to create new venues for the arts. Events such as a fair reaching plein air events, artist studio tours.

Lodging and short-term rentals

Some of the notes from the lodging and short-term rentals focus group are listed below.

– STRs can provide supplemental income for residents more effectively. STR compliance and enforcement … lines of communication between STRs and neighbors … balance the conversation around STRs and how they provide a second source of income for those living in the community.

– Labor shortages must be fixed. Develop a network of housing providers for local staff. Need a more structured network of housing providers for everyone knows who to call. Look at list of non-traditional housing providers as a community service and community hub.

– There is strong demand for accommodations of all types. A good mix is better to attract diverse group of visitors.

– LGBTQ travelers. Traveling work from home employees are a new audience to capture. Mid-week travelers.

– New accommodation provide investment opportunities. The community is overbuilt when it comes to lodging.

Sports tourism

Some of the notes from the sports tourism focus group are listed below.

– Events should be staged in shoulder months around … need to nurture and support the events we have … them going. Not put up roadblocks.

– World Cup-level mountain biking. We have amazing trails and venues and we’re hardly known. Spring and fall seasons are outside the crunch and they leverage multiple towns.

– The Adirondack Rail Trail will open the region to exponential growth in bicycle tourism and help alleviate trail overuse and congestion in the High Peaks.

– Updated facilities for University Games, youth and women’s sports, family events.

– Van Ho also has great potential for mountain biking and cycle cross (CX) as a venue. Expand Whiteface beyond Alpine, downhill.

– Horse show grounds and other fields have the opportunity to host other sports. Fishing tournaments at pro level. Water sports in Lake Placid.

– How about a sport-related speaker series? Get pro … biking, golf, etc. to come and stay and speak.

– Sports nutrition and training center for athletes. Create SUNY branch location focused on sports medicine, health and nutrition. Develop an athletics institute to lead in sports nutrition, psychology, training and research.

– I feel we need better, clearer communication (website) that points folks to and away from specific routes (road and trails) for biking. Our roads and trails can be intimidating.

– At the trailheads of the rail trail in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake could be developed. The Masonic Lodge in Lake Placid and the old train station in Saranac Lake are great opportunities for end-to-end destinations.

– Let’s get more regional championship events here. Soccer, field hockey, ultimate Frisbee.

Outdoor recreation

Some of the notes from the outdoor recreation focus group are listed below.

– Better trail infrastructure. trails connecting towns … systems. More mountain biking trails. Creating … bike lanes, especially Wesvalley Road and Old Military Road.

– Funding for trail and frontcountry infrastructure. funding for bike and pedestrian connectivity.

– Create more and better access to state land. The state has made significant acquisitions and now needs to create better access and trails. The trailless peaks need well laid out trails with a frontcountry infrastructure.

– Hamlets to Huts, sustainable hiking by exploring less-used trails.

– To be a sustainable community we need to up the effort on recycling and composting, especially with commercial businesses.

– Adapt to climate change affecting winter recreation.

Strategic takeaways

There are six strategic takeaways from the initial interviews with focus groups.

1. Balance community and industry development around aligned goals: Balance the needs of the community and growth of the visitor industry by increasing community engagement and education to inform and align tourism and economic development decisions. Tourism isn’t the end goal. It’s a pipeline to support community priorities.

2. Diversify economy by incentivizing investment in key sectors: Expand mid-level income households and diversify the economy by supporting the growth of professional services based on areas of local expertise. And expand middle income opportunity and diversify the economy by supporting the growth of professional services based on areas of local expertise.

3. Build a global center of excellence in outdoor recreation for all ages: Leverage investments in the University Games and a 100-year legacy in sports tourism to optimize outdoor recreation opportunities for all residents and visitors year-round.

4. Support creative and cultural communities to drive visitor spend: Invest in arts, culture, food and beverage, music, media and entertainment, non- sporting events and the creative community to elevate and diversify quality of life for residents and disperse visitors to more areas during more times of the year. This defines sense of place.

5. Develop a data-driven content ecosystem for residents and visitors: Expand and improve visitor and community-facing content to drive business to more small businesses and local organizations, and empower the global destination brand.

6. Prioritize long-term quality of life for all residents and workforce: Adopt a whole-of-destination approach to increase subsidies in housing diversity and childcare to attract a broad range of local workforce and remote workers of all skill levels.

Next step

The town hall meeting, which will be held in October, will be open to all local residents and stakeholders. The updated takeaways from research and community engagement will be reviewed. And residents will be able to offer their views on the initial look of the destination management strategies developed to date. In addition, the audience will be polled with a web-based tool to prioritize strategies.