CANAJOHARIE - Local business representatives and heritage organization members gathered at the Arkell Museum Thursday for the Path Through History presentation and workshop to discuss improving tourism in the Mohawk Valley Region.
Roughly 60 people attended the event and discussed what tourism ideas have worked in the past and what subjects to focus on for future tourism promotion in the Mohawk Valley.
Mark Castiglione, executive director of the Mohawk Valley Greenway, discussed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Path Through History initiative and said the goal with the program is to tell the region's story in a better way.
Montgomery County Historian Kelly Farquhar and Economic Development Specialist Jacki Meola lead a group at the Path Through History workshop Thursday at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie. (The Leader-Herald/John Borgolini)
"Tourism is economic development," Castiglione said. "Tourism is not an option. Tourism is a huge economic driver in New York state."
He said part of the focus with the program is to attract more heritage tourists - people who select travel destinations with history in mind. Heritage tourists spend $192 billion annually in the United States and $5 million annually in New York, he said.
Cuomo announced last year the state is spending $1 million on the Path Through History program, distributing $100,000 to each of 10 regions.
"The goal is to surround the tourists with heritage," Castiglione said. "I know we're going to benefit from it, and I know it's going to be long-lived."
The crowd of roughly 60 local residents was broken up into six workgroups after presentations by Castiglione and Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, Fulton County tourism director with the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In the groups, the attendees discussed what tourism initiatives have worked in the past, including the annual Johnson Hall Market Fair, the recent Johnstown Cemetery Tours and Fort Plain walking tours. They then discussed what initiatives can be made in the future, including integrating mobile apps with locations, creating a history path that would connect the sites together and telling the stories of less well-known historic figures.
Catherine Adams of the Schoharie County Arts Council told the crowd the region has a lot to work with.
"There are so many things that even we don't know about," Adams said. "We need to connect the dots. There's a lot of stuff we can do with [our region]."
Ultimately, Castiglione said, he was pleased with the turnout Thursday, and he was once again reminded of how much residents care about their regional history.
One theme he noticed was people saying there is a lot of history in their region, but they need to more actively connect the sites.
"Talking to the work groups, talking at the public input meetings and hearing what the folks have to say, what I found out again today is there is tremendous passion for history and stories the regions have to tell," he said. "I also found out that there are a lot of things going on here, and there is a commitment for these people and these organizations to do a better job at working together."
Castiglione said regional tourism officials will review the ideas generated at Thursday's meeting and determine how to proceed - and how to invest the $100,000 in promotion funds - this spring.
John Borgolini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.