CATS Director Chris Maron speaks during the annual ROOST Destination Awards in Lake Placid.
Over one year ago, Champlain Area Trails (CATS) started a writing contest that they hoped would be an asset to tourism.
On Jan. 24, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) recognized the efforts of CATS and the writing contest with one of its three annual Destination Awards, the Tourism Marketing Award.
"It's a real boost for us," CATS Director Chris Maron said about receiving the award. "We wanted to keep in touch with the other tourism groups in the region and its exciting to see that other people have noticed and that it has had a positive effect. It's also an honor to all the people who have been here to support us."
In awarding CATS with a Destination Award, ROOST said that the organization that was founded in 2009 has had a positive impact in vacation planning.
"CATS understands that vacation planning occurs online," ROOST said during its presentation video. "By collecting stories from writers about their experiences not only on the trails but at local businesses and historic and cultural sites, as well as the people they meet along the way, they develop online content that promotes the region as a wonderful place to visit, and to live. This content is then also easily shared via social networks."
Maron echoed the thought that the contest was about more than trails.
"What ROOST and the state are really pushing is for people to think regionally and, in a way, that is what this travel writing contest is about," Maron said. "The contest is not only about trails but the businesses and people who live here so people can get a flavor fro what they will find here."
Maron said that the writing contest helps to promote regional travel in a different way.
"We are working to build trails that connect communities and the contest as a way to tell the stories of these communities," he said. "We want to help make the Champlain Valley a destination attraction like places in England where people hike and walk between the towns."
“As the Destination Marketing Organization for Essex County, we are pleased to showcase the people and organizations who have made the greatest contributions toward achieving a sustainable tourism economy for our region,” Justin Smith, Chair of the ROOST board of directors, said. “We thank CATS for their stewardship of a vital natural and recreational resources, and for their continued partnership with ROOST to promote those resources in the Lake Champlain Region.”
Maron said that CATS is already planning its fourth travel writing contest, which may eventually expand into a photo contest along with writing.
Recently, Paula Castner of Lancaster, Mass., was awarded the $500 first place prize in the third CATS Travel Writing Contest. Her essay described hiking the Wildway Overlook Trail in Essex, visiting museums and parks, going to church and the Elizabethtown Library, and getting food at the farmers’ market and local restaurants.
“I just wanted people to walk with me as I went to all these great places,” she says.
High school freshman Julia Dixon of Lake Forest, Ill., won the $250 People’s Choice Award with 158 votes online. The 14-year-old has been spending summers at her grandparents in Westport. She wrote of hiking Coon Mountain, visiting Dogwood Bakery, and how much she loves coming here.
Readers can see read both essays—as well as the other top entries at www.champlainareatrails.com/contest.html.