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North Country interests call for restored funding for northernmost Interstate Gateway Center

Welcome to New York sign
Pat Bradley
/
WAMC
Welcome to New York sign (file)

In April 2020 New York state closed the Beekmantown Gateway Center on Interstate 87. Ten miles south of the Canadian border, it had been the first state tourism center that international travelers would encounter after crossing the border. Regional economic, tourism and political leaders are calling on New York state to reopen what they call a critical economic and tourism resource.

Cars and trucks traveling south on Interstate 87 occasionally pull into the Beekmantown Gateway Center to park or use the restrooms, the only part of the facility that remains open.

As the governor and legislature prepare the next state budget, a group of tourism, business and political leaders in the North Country are seeking restoration of funds for the highway rest stop and information center.

Standing outside the facility, 115th district Democratic Assemblyman D. Billy Jones said the center is an important part of the region’s hospitality sector.

“This is the first stop that our friends and neighbors to the north are going to see to get information all over the region. We need to make sure this opens back up for our tourism partners and there’s not another stop, rest stop for 65 miles, 63 miles to be precise, south of here,” said Jones. “So this is the gateway for our friends and neighbors to the north. Our gateway for many of our Canadian friends to all of New York state and the North Country. So we need to  get this back open.”

North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas said with anticipated restoration of travel by Canadians this summer it’s crucial to reopen the information center. Douglas would also like the state to rebuild the welcome center, which opened in 1995.

“All over the state there are these welcome and gateway centers. The state has invested many millions of dollars over the last 10 – 15 years in building entirely new ones across the state. On the Northway in the northbound direction the state spent great amounts of money to build new welcome centers at Clifton Park and Queensbury for northbound travel and we’re happy they did that.” Douglas continued, “There’s a lot of southbound traffic here too and this is one of the state’s most important gateways for visitation, particularly from our Canadian friends. We need this center reopened. Then we also need the planning to start for a new center here to replace this outdated facility.”

Adirondack Frontier is the Franklin County Economic Development Corporation’s marketing division.

CEO Jeremy Evans worked at the welcome center when he was in college and says it’s a crucial tourism resource.

“Having met with so many people that came across the border, many Americans too who were just traveling, and they didn’t know New York state. They didn’t know the Adirondack region and from firsthand experience I know that the folks who worked here are true ambassadors on behalf of the region and on behalf of New York state. And it was a great partnership,” recalls Evans. “It’s time to bring those ambassadors back on behalf of the Adirondack region and on behalf of New York state.”

The Adirondack Regional Tourism Council operated the Gateway Center under a $196,000 contract with the state. When operational, the council reports, the Gateway Center averaged 103,000 visitors annually and distributed brochures from about 200 businesses and organizations.