A new regional Welcome Center, as all interstate rest areas in New York are now labelled, is now open.
Located on the northbound lanes of I-87, south of exits to Glens Falls and Queensbury, the center is intended to serve as a gateway to the Lake George and Adirondack regions.
The center’s opening was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, September 20.
“Tourism is a key economic driver for New York, and the new Adirondacks Welcome Center will attract even more new and returning visitors to enjoy the unparalleled views and countless outdoor activities offered in this region,” Governor Cuomo said.
“This new gateway will provide millions of Northway travelers a warm welcome as they arrive to the beautiful Adirondack Park, driving tourism and promoting economic growth across our great state.”
State and local elected officials attended Thursday’s opening ceremonies, among them: State Senator Betty Little, Assemblyman Dan Stec, Warren County Board of Supervisors chairman Ron Conover, Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, Queensbury Supervisor John Strough and Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson.
Also present: board and staff from the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, which will staff the new facility.
“We have always been on the frontlines, meeting and greeting people, whether in our offices or in the Lake George Visitors Center. Now we’ll be performing that function in a regional Welcome Center as well,” said chamber executive director Gina Mintzer.
The center is expected be open twenty fours a day, every day of the year. Mintzer said that on average, 25,000 cars pass the Welcome Center site every day, and at least 5% of those vehicles are expected to visit the facility.
“It’s an opportunity to promote the entire region,” said Mintzer.
At Thursday’s opening ceremonies, Assemblyman Dan Stec Stated, “From the region's historical gems to its natural beauty and fantastic local businesses, this new facility will provide a warm welcome to visitors new and old.”
“It highlights so much of what our incredible region offers, showcasing our breathtaking outdoor spaces and recreational activities. It is a great enhancement to our state's tourism industry that will continue to attract more and more visitors to our great state,” said Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson.
According to Mintzer, the Welcome Center offers the traveler much more than brochures about the region, valuable as they may be. The Chamber has worked with Cornell Co-operative Extension to sell locally-sourced products, food and beverages under the Taste NY brand.
“We’ve reached out to the farming community to find retail-ready products,” said Mintzer. “And if we can’t find popular foods like chips made locally we find something made in New York State.” Local businesses whose products are being sold at the Welcome Center include: Adirondack Pub and Brewery; Barkeater Chocolates; Cooper’s Cave; Lake George Baking Company; Martha’s Dandee Crème; Oscar’s; and the Barnsider. Gifts are also sold, made by local businesses such as Love is on Lake George.
This year’s state budget includes funds for the regional Welcome Centers, including $350,000 for the Adirondack Welcome Center, which will help finance the Lake George Chamber’s operations in the center’s first year.
However, Mintzer noted, New York State expects the Welcome Center to be able to support itself without state aid in a relatively short period of time.
According to New York State officials, the new, 615 square-foot building is designed to evoke the architectural style of the Adirondack great camps.
It abounds with energy efficient and climate smart features, officials said. Among them: geothermal water source heat pumps for both heating and cooling the building, LED light fixtures, electric car charging stations, recyclables collection, water efficient landscaping, and energy efficient windows and doors.
According to Governor Cuomo’s office, the displays and interactive kiosks will encourage travelers to visit the museums and other local attractions that are “linked to the history and natural beauty of the six-million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest publicly protected park in the contiguous United States.”
The officials said traveling families will appreciate an outdoor children's play area with a zip line, along with a pet comfort area, free Wi-Fi, cell phone charging stations, picnic tables and Adirondack chairs.
A boat washing station, to open this spring, will be operated by Paul Smith College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program, which works with the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species through Adirondack waterways.
Sources tell the Mirror that the Watershed Institute and APIPP worked with New York’s Department of Transportation to make certain that the boat washing station meets their needs and standards.
Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, said local municipalities were willing to contribute at least half the costs of the new boat washing station, had that been necessary.
“It was that important. Only through rigorous measures can we stop invasives species from ravaging a recreation economy that depends upon healthy waters,” said Siy.
A new rest area at the southern approach to Lake George was first proposed by State Senator Betty Little, who secured a $1 million appropriation in the 2015 state budget to fund renovations at the 22-acre site.
“For many years, the rest area has been in need of major improvement. This new Welcome Center far exceeds what I and others envisioned but it does a much better job reflecting what we're about and all we have to offer,” said Senator Little.