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Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism director discusses Destination Management Plan being formulated for Lake Placid area

Pat Bradley

The Town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid recently held a joint public meeting to allow residents and local officials to get an update on a Destination Management Plan being developed for the region. The plan is a blueprint that establishes priorities to diversify the local economy. Development of the Destination Management Plan 2030is being guided by the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, also known as ROOST. ROOST President Jim McKenna tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley that the plan’s goal is to help decrease the region’s reliance on the tourism economy.

We're at the stage and the Lake Placid area, region really, and not unlike many places around the globe where tourism has been successful and it dominates the economy. And to be a well-rounded community and have a well-rounded economy, you have to really make sure there's more than one economic engine that you rely on. So the timing is right to try to diversify the economy somewhat.

The report says that expanding tourism for its own sake is not the goal and it does talk about the fact that tourism is not the end goal. So is there a specific goal or is it more of a generalized goal that you're working for if you're trying to diversify the economy?

When we diversify it doesn't mean that we lose tourism and sports. We maintain the tourism and sports anchor. But we try to reach out to new industries that are appropriately scaled and sized for this region that build on the assets that the region already has. Whether that be maybe sports medicine or areas of more national governing bodies of sports coming or looking at the newest industry out there is the remote worker industry. And, you know, how do we fit that? How do we develop a plan to enter those areas? Lake Placid's challenge historically has been all of our eggs have been in one basket. And now's probably the time to initiate an economic office that will reach out and try to help our economy be a little more stable. Meaning that let's have a few horses in the barn, not just one, so that the seasonal or economic swings of tourism won't play as dominant as they have in the past. Positioning so that our economy has more than one specific engine.

As you talked about the assets that we already have it sounds like you're looking at more peeling away the different cloves of the onion rather than trying to kind of hammer on the hard base.

Very much so. I mean, if we look at economic stability and diversifying our economy, it's certainly not going to be factories. We have to recognize the area that we live. The regional sustainability of the environment is probably our most common theme. But if we look clearly that there are certain assets here that are very attractive to small maybe sports related companies that might want to build, who knows what mountain bikes or whatever, we have to complement the assets we have to give us a little more variety of economics so that there's not all these entry level only jobs in this in the service industry. But there's a variety of jobs that lead to a variety of community members, which really lead to probably some more population growth, getting our school levels back to what they were maybe in the mid-2000s. But there's many things that we have to look at on a gradual basis to really make sure our tourism and sports economy is not negatively affected. But don't bank on that as our only industry in the future.

So the management plan lays out six objectives and 24 strategies. If you're taking a look at this as working off of the strengths that the region has, whether that means industries that can work off hiking, you mentioned mountain biking, boating maybe or water sports of some kind. How do these six objectives and the strategies work to accomplish that? Or are these things that are in flux as we move forward?

What we're doing now as a community is really taking this DMP, Destination Management Plan, and going through those six pillars that were identified and sort of figuring out where they fit for implementation. And, you know, that's really the first step and the meeting with the town and village was about tackling the first one. And that was, you know, how do we establish an economic office in this community? How does it function? Who does it report to? So we've started that process already. Is that going to be solved in one week, two weeks, six weeks? It'll probably be, you know, six months to a year. But I think by this time next year you'll see that the Lake Placid area has a very specific economic office that will be trying to implement the strategies as identified. And then as we move down that list, you know, increase the long term resident housing diversity. That's in process now and the town and village has a pretty good organization moving forward on that. It's probably trying to give it a little more teeth. And recognizing is that we have to appeal not only to low income housing, but it has to be low income and it has to be middle income and it has to be higher income housing. To be a real community you have to be able to offer all types of housing. So each particular area we think there's going to be specific strategies and it might be different organizations that might tackle each of them.

Jim, because the Lake Placid area has so much that it has to do in conjunction with the state, so many of the Olympic facilities are managed by the state or funded by the state, how much of the management plan will be impacted by forces that perhaps the village and the town can't really control?

There's a number of organizations that we've identified that will have to be involved in the implementation of this plan. Certainly the town. Certainly the village. Certainly the school. Certainly ORDA. Certainly ROOST. And there's others as well. But I think that our intent here is to be inclusive in how the management of this happens so that we have the state engaged with the local community and the management plan developed. When we look at the state owned facilities, let's not forget the Adirondack wilderness the state owns. That's been challenged in some areas over the last few years. So one of the goals here is really dealing with that issue, environmental sustainability, looking at it on a regional basis. So I think there's some very cooperative things that will be done in conjunction with the state and also the sports facilities. So we're looking at this as an opportunity, not only for the town and village, but for all of our stakeholders in the region.

It says it's a Destination Management Plan 2030. Is this something that could be implemented before 2030?

Without a doubt it's our intent is to implement it prior to 2030 and probably update it prior to 2030 as well.

If it is implemented before 2030 what happens then?

It's a significant direction change for the community and for organizations like ROOST. ROOST has historically been really the destination marketing organization. Now ROOST is gradually readjusting its priorities and we're calling ourselves a destination marketing and management organization. So that all of our really leaders have to, and our organizations, we hope this plan gives them a new, a new future. A new way to looking at things in a new light. That we have more opportunity today than we might have had 25 years ago to make our economy not 80% totally dependent on tourism and sport. How do we round that out? Everybody is recognizing the opportunity here. And the reason to do it is to benefit the residents of the community.

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