PLATTSBURGH - The Adirondack Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau has big plans for the North Country.
During a presentation of the bureau's new Destination Master Plan at Clinton Community College Dec. 10, members of the general public were given a look at the future of the region as painted by a strategic tourism planning committee comprised of local community leaders. The 25-page document outlines how the North Country can capitalize on its reputation for being a Mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts and on its rich history - particularly in its role during the War of 1812.
Michele Powers, director of the Adirondack Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau, said its was clearly laid out in discussions with committee members that there hasn't been enough done to promote the history of the area, especially in regard to being the home of the Battle of Plattsburgh and Battle of Valcour.
"We're going to turn the volume up," said Powers.
The plans calls for an increased and aggressive focus on marketing the area for its historic sites and putting year-round attention on the region during the early 19th century. One facet of the plan, is a particularly audacious one, said Powers, but a cornerstone on which tourists can be drawn here.
"We are looking at rebuilding the entire British and American fleets from the War of 1812," said Powers. "This is a big one."
Though the proposal is one that would cost millions of dollars to develop, Powers said the idea is in its infancy and would involve support from many sources.
"We are in the early stages of this and a lot of it's going to take a lot of study and planning," explained Powers. "We're applying for a grant that could really help infuse capital into some of these projects and get us off the ground."
However, Powers said the bureau and the planning committee realize grant funding won't be a reliable source for capital.
"We can't live grant to grant. We know that some of these projects are going to need to be sustainable on their own," she said. "We have to come up with a business plan to make that happen and bring the right people in."
Powers said she and the planning committee are hoping to expand on the work that is done annually by an "army of volunteers who kill themselves to create a fantastic two to four-day event" each September.
"The Battle of Plattsburgh weekend is fantastic. The problem with it is that last word - it's a weekend," said Powers, who said a year-round look at history, including encampments, guided tours and the like are part of the master plan.
Keith Herkalo, president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, which oversees the Battle of Plattsburgh Weekend each year, said he welcomes the boldness of the plan.
"It's an American story that needs to be told and the North Country business community is just now waking up to that fact," said Herkalo, who added tourism could rely heavily on the region's history. "We're hopeful that the business community is going to put their shoulders to this moving forward."
Local businessman Steve Carpenter, a member of the planning committee, said he's on board, knowing how important the plan will be to the region.
"This is going to affect the whole county. It's going to involve everybody," said Carpenter. "Everyone is going to get rewards from this ... We're all going to pull together and we're all going to win at this."
Bob Smith, president of Nine Platt Hospitality Group and also a member of the planning committee, agreed. Smith added the participation from people overseas who have a vested interest in the history of the region, in the United Kingdom, for example, would also be key to seeing the plan through.
"We believe that the community, once they see the plan, the vision, will be ready to invest in it," said Smith.
Powers said the committee's next move will be to reconvene in January to break out into various committees, with each committee member given an action item on which to follow up.
For more information about the Adirondack Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau's Destination Master Plan, contact Powers at 563-1000 or visit www.goadirondack.com.