BEEKMANTOWN - The Beekmantown Gateway Welcome Center has re-opened.
The official "I Love New York" welcome center - situated off the southbound lane of Interstate 87 south of the Chazy exit - opened its doors May 9 after a five-month closure. The center closed in December after funding for its operation was eliminated from the 2010-11 state budget.
Ron Ofner, executive director of the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, which oversees operation of the center, said the reopening was credited to efforts of people like state Sen. Elizabeth O'C. Little, R-Queensbury, and North Country Chamber of Commerce president Garry F. Douglas in pushing for essential funding to be restored in the state budget.
"Sen. Little was very influential in this as chair of the senate tourism committee," said Ofner. "And, Garry Douglas, for the last year and a half, has been pushing for funding to keep the center strong."
The center's first day back in business saw a "good rush of people" stopping in for information about things like local restaurants, attractions and lodging.
"Almost 100 percent of them were Canadian visitors," said Ofner.
The center's reopening comes at a time when the Canadian dollar is slightly stronger, said Ofner, who said he is hoping to see more traffic here consisting of our neighbors to the north. The past few months of the center being closed resulted in the tourism council being unable to educate travelers about what is offered across the state - particularly the Adirondack Region, said Ofner.
"Certainly, we missed out on that opportunity," he said. "People were continuing on their travels without stopping in the North Country, which is unfortunate."
However, not all hope is lost. According to Ofner, approximately one-third of those who visit the center are coming from Canada and have never been to New York State. Now, when they visit, that's when the council can spread the word about local businesses and attractions.
"We can point them to places in the Plattsburgh area or along the Northway corridor like Lake Placid and Lake George," said Ofner, who added he is "excited" that the center has reopened.
Eric Tremblay of Montreal,Quebec, was among the Canadian visitors to the center reopening day, also excited to see the center back in business.
"I usually come here every second month or so," saidTremblay. "It's a great place to stop when traveling toNew York City or if you want the latest information.There are a lot of maps available and the staff is always useful."
Ofner said he is glad to have back the majority of the staff that ran the center before it closed in December. The center employs four full-time and one part-time employee. One full-time position was eliminated, though Ofner said he feels thecenter's current staff can meet demands.
"We have a very experienced staff," he said.
Though Ofner said the contract for the center was renewed for the coming year "contingent upon available funding," he feels the need for the center has been demonstrated.
"I can only assume that as we continue to perform the services as well as we have in the past, and if we continue to have a supportive senator, we should be in good shape," said Ofner.
The center is currently open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and may be reached by calling 846-8016. More information about the center and attractions in the Adirondack Region are available on the Tourism Council website, www.visitadirondacks.com.
Did you know?
The Beekmantown Gateway Welcome Center, on an annual basis:
• sees approximately 115,000-118,000 visitors
• fields approximately 40,000-50,000 requests for information
• receives 12,000-14,000 phone calls