Friday, October 7, 2011

New England Tourism Officials Hopeful After Recovery

Stowe, Vermont
Times Union: Resort areas are hoping for a flood of a different kind this Columbus Day weekend: tourists who will spend money and help fuel the recovery from last month's storms.

And it looks like they will get their wish. Hotels and inns in Woodstock, Vermont, which was cut off from the Capital Region for two weeks last month by road washouts, are reporting they're full or nearly so.

In northern New York, roads have reopened and Lake Placid tourism officials also expect to be at "pretty much full capacity," said Kimberly Rielly, director of communications at the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's also Canadian Thanksgiving, so it's a big holiday for us."

For a change, even the weather is cooperating, with warm, sunny days forecast throughout the Northeast.

Edward Maitino, director of tourism for Empire State Development, said a few scattered events were canceled after the floods, but that most are going ahead.

"It's been long enough that almost all of these communities are back on their feet, thankfully," Maitino said.

In Vermont, the town of Woodstock "is in pretty good shape," said Beth Finlayson, director of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce. Flood waters spared most of the village center, although they washed out U.S. Route 4, a major route from the Capital Region to eastern Vermont.

"From your side of the mountain, people really couldn't get here," Finlayson said. "Route 4 was closed for 2-1/2 weeks, and there was no water for the first week here in Woodstock."

Route 4 and other highways have since reopened, and Finlayson reports that Woodstock's three covered bridges "are in fine shape."

Closer to home, Schoharie County communities saw devastating damage from the storms.

But farmstands quickly reopened, and such destinations as the Old Stone Fort Museum Complex on Route 30 in Schoharie plan a full schedule of activities during Stone Fort Days this weekend.

A military encampent and re-enactments, a barn raising, and other activites are scheduled. Admission is free, and donations to help flood recovery will be accepted throughout the weekend.

Farther west, Howe Caverns and other attractions are also open, said Penny Heritage, agricultural marketing specialist for the Schoharie County Planning & Development Agency.

The advice to visitors is to call ahead to confirm hotel or inn reservations, and to find out whether an attraction is open.

In Lake Placid, Rielly said hiking trails in the High Peaks region that closed temporarily after the storms have since reopened, and that the Whiteface Mountain gondola will be operating throughout the holiday weekend.

The Whiteface Flaming Leaves Festival on Saturday and Sunday will feature live blues bands, ski jump competitions and other activities, said Wendy Townsley, a spokeswoman for the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates Whiteface. The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway is also open, but after Monday will close for the season.

"The tourism infrastructure is larged untouched," said Rielly.

Tourists stayed away in many areas following the storms, as recovery efforts were under way to rebuild roads and bridges, and help local residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

Now, "businesses are looking forward to the weekend," said Finlayson of the Woodstock Area Chamber, following a "dismal" September.

"Fall has become a very important season for us, because of the foliage and the bounty," said Maitino. "These communities are back on their feet and really in need of the support of travelers."

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