I was talking yesterday with Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, who was unveiling his village’s new “6er” program, designed to convince people to come check out the cool little mountains that ring his community.
“I talk to people on the trail, which I often do and I ask them if they know about Saranac Lake and most of them don’t. So this is a way to introduce Saranac Lake and our beautiful mountains to that community.”
That community is the small army of hikers and outdoorspeople — many of them affluent and willing to spend a few bucks while visiting the mountains — that flow out of Boston, Montreal, New York City and other population hubs each weekend.
The interesting thing here is that more and more local leaders seem to be embracing the idea mountains and hiking trails and paddling spots can be a draw and an economic lifeline.
When I first came to the Park a dozen or so years ago, I would often hear elected officials grousing about outdoorspeople.
The general assumption was that they didn’t spend much money or stop at local businesses.
These days, I hear a different sort of thinking:
The idea now is that the marketing needs to appeal to potential visitors and local businesses have to offer products and services that this kind of traveler wants to pay for.
Hikers and paddlers may not spend money in the same way as fishermen and snowmobilers, but they’re still good potential customers.
But getting that formula right, translating more trailheads and boat launches into local prosperity, clearly isn’t easy.
The modern Adirondacks is reaching the half-century mark and a lot of communities are still taking baby steps to try to integrate their marketing, and their business opportunities, with the wild lands and recreation opportunities that surround them.
So here’s my question: Wherever you are in the Adirondacks, do you see the hiking, paddling, climbing and camping opportunities around you as an economic engine?
Are the public lands and open space that surround your community doing good things for local merchants and workers? If not, why not?
And what about you folks who visit the Park? Do you spend a few dollars when you pass through on your way to the trailhead? Are you finding the services that you’re willing to crack your wallet for?
Comments, as always, welcome below.