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Lewis County businesses assess local impact of ad campaign

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LOWVILLE — While some Lewis County business owners can’t speculate on the potential impact, if any, a state-sponsored ad campaign promoting the region’s winter sports may have on area businesses, at least one says the promotion is putting the cart before the horse.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the campaign, which was set to go into effect Jan. 1, at a press conference in Lowville last week.

“There’s been no follow-up,” said Anne L. Merrill, executive director of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve got no idea where or when they are coming out,” she said of the advertisements. She also was unsure how the campaign would lead tourists directly to Lewis County.

“They were generic and none said Tug Hill,” she said. “They did say we have 10,000 miles of trails across New York, which is true.”

For John P. DeGuardia, owner of Timberview Resort in Houseville, an increase in overnights guests won’t help his business as he can’t accommodate any more and rarely has a vacancy.

He does view the ad campaign as a positive move for the area, but said the important issues have not been addressed.

Trails are groomed throughout the county, he said, “by volunteers. These clubs aren’t for profit. I don’t know if everyone realizes that.”

“I love the ad, I think it’s a great thing, but these clubs are struggling,” he said. “What are we going to do when all these people come here and the clubs can’t keep up and keep the trails groomed? This is really putting the cart before the horse.”

He suggested the state should have a plan to distribute revenues to the clubs to be better prepared for the tourists.

“I don’t want people to come and have a miserable time,” he said. “They won’t come back. I fear we will have introduced them to the sport and then they’ll go to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Canada, where they have well-funded trail systems.”

The ads also target ski resorts, which Mr. DeGuardia said he also believes could benefit Lewis County, despite more skiing in other locations in the state.

Snow Ridge, he said, could benefit from grants or low-interest loans, which he said would have also been useful to include in the promotion from the state.

“We need to make these businesses ready to handle this amount of people,” he said.

Gordon J. Yancey, owner of Flat Rock Inn, was unaware how the campaign could affect his snowmobile rental business.

“I haven’t heard a word about it. I only heard (Gov. Cuomo) was here on the news,” he said. “They kept it quiet until it was over.”

For Mr. Yancey, an influx of inexperienced riders from out of state won’t mean much of a difference in how he handles rentals.

“We already always give a lesson for new riders on controls and operation,” he said. “We stress the importance of safety and to operate it just like you would a motor vehicle. Don’t ever put yourself in a dangerous or compromising position.”

Lewis County sheriff’s deputies also had not received direction on how to handle any potential increase in snowmobile traffic.

Mr. Yancey said the state already recognizes snowmobiling as an industry and suggested promoting all-terrain vehicles would reap more financial rewards.

Even when weather cooperates, he said, “sledding is three months out of the year; ATVing is eight or nine months. ATVs needs to be recognized as a viable industry.”

While part of the campaign is said to be an attempt to draw snowmobile riders from Canada, Mr. Yancey was unsure that would be successful.

“If they have snow there, why would they come here?” he said.

Tracey J. Miller, owner of Ridge View Lodge, said she also had heard a push to attract Canadians to the area was in store.

“I don’t know if they’ll come. I think it all depends on who they advertise to,” she said. “It’s too soon to tell. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

In Lyons Falls, The Edge Hotel frequently has no vacancies during snowmobile season. Owner Tracy Hurilla had no comment as to the potential impact the ad campaign could have on business.

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