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Showcasing Our Needs?
July 22, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
The summer season showcases all that we have.
It also vividly points out in 3-D what we don’t.
And this high point of summer paints this portrait of our region to a whole slew of different kinds of people not just visitors but second home owners and visiting family and friends.
This is the point where everything is taxed and a short season where you better earn enough money to pay your taxes. What is it that they say: 80% of our income is in these 4 months and the other 8 you tread water – hopefully not literally?
This is the time when there doesn’t seem to be enough employees or infrastructure to accommodate all of our needs. A time of year when locals sometimes go into hiding until September rolls around. We often lament about how we wish there was more consistency to our seasons, maybe a little less now and a lot more later – otherwise known as seasonal cash flow and heart fluttering.
If that were the case, the things we could do and the better we could plan. But we always seem to be one gas price spike or tropical storm away from hiring that extra employee or carrying that additional inventory to make things easier. We tax ourselves and sometimes our customer’s patience operating at a level that gets us by most of the year but can be a struggle now.
It’s show time.
We have this love-hate relationship with it all. We don’t like the sense of constantly being the batter with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of 9th. Your team is behind a run and you know that you have to pull through. We also understand that it is better than not being able to play at all known as the after- Columbus Day “leaf” me out period.
All on Display
Yes the spotlight is on us. Big events like Governor’s Adirondack Challenge, Ironman and rugby highlight a slew of events going on in all our communities. Add that to our natural wonders and it is quite the spectacle.
We have come to understand that to be successful in this spotlight; we need to offer a whole slew of amenities. This can range from multiple outdoor activities and indoor fun from the arts to restaurants. We also need a diverse range of other amenities from shopping to basic care needs like grocery stores and gas stations.
In the Adirondack Park, we have incredible natural amenities and activities to choose from. However, in many of our community’s basic infrastructure is disappearing. I am not talking just about water, bathrooms and parking but everything from accommodations to shopping and restaurants.
While we want tourism and new jobs are we losing basic capacity in many of our communities to attract economic development? If we are not careful will we devolve into 3 specific Adirondack regions: Lake Placid, Lake George and Old Forge while the rest wither on the vine? Just like the pressure on our individual businesses in certain times of year this may put an undue stress on not only these communities but eco-systems like trails and lakes from overuse.
Meanwhile, could other communities and natural features of the Park become abandoned?
You cannot market amenities you don’t have and subsequently attract people at the levels you might wish for if you cannot fulfill their expectations.
And that’s the thing about amenities: it is not just about the basic and critical life needs, it is also about being competitive with what customers EXPECT.
In order to be competitive for jobs and tourists with other rural communities in Vermont, Canada, and the White Mountains for example, we need to offer what they do. We need multiple levels of lodgings from camping to luxury, shopping, and retail and restaurants options. There needs to be a variety of outdoor and indoor activities. There needs to be a certain level of economic diversity to carry a workforce when those new jobs arrive.
It has been documented well, the aging of our population, the closing or shrinking of our schools and communities without even a grocery store.
This plus and minus of our amenities becomes front and center at events like the Governor’s Adirondack challenge. And in the case, perhaps all publicity is good publicity, and this may be a good thing for the Adirondacks.
It hopefully showcased all that we are and what we can be: an unrivaled mountain-lake region with strong community support and volunteerism.
I also hope it was an eye opening education on the condition of our Adirondack communities to state and elected officials participating in this event. Perhaps this is what the Governor really intended.
However the one thing almost all Adirondack communities share is the need for additional amenities.
A Common Front?
Perhaps an edict can come from these visiting officials that it is time to come together as a community, a region and state to deal with the growing lack of amenities in the Park before it completely strangles once thriving Adirondack communities.
Perhaps we can use the need for amenities and take it to the next level for a greater regional discussion using divisive issues such as the rail corridor to bring all sides together.
Yes, you heard it right. The rail corridor as unifying project. Yes, I know I may be suffering from sun stroke now that summer is finally shinning.
The question of rail vs. trail or a combination corridor may not be totally successful without addressing the need for amenities. Is this something we can all agree and work on – for the benefit of the corridor - as a priority or pilot project for the Adirondacks? Can this controversial issue be turned around to bring folks together around a common need?
As we showcase the Adirondacks the next couple of weeks, perhaps this over-arching need for amenities will become clear. The lack of amenities for both basic needs and to meet visitor expectations should be a conversation we should have now while we think about planning and marketing the Adirondacks. We can hold out the sign "Please come" but we may want to think about do we have the amenities to attract the people we want regardless of what cause.
Perhaps the rallying cry of “Amenities for Jobs” can be a call that brings our many groups together.
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