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Create Pathfinders In Your Region

I attended The New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City in January, as a member of the press for The New York History Blog. The event included a special session, “Focus on New York State Destinations,” moderated by Tim Lewis, of Viator Inc.

The company apparently has been hired by ILoveNY to promote tours in New York State. Its website lists 19 tours in New York at present: 16 in Manhattan and three to Niagara Falls, including one-day trips from the New York City. There is a two-day bus trip to Niagara Falls from New York with a “Bargain shop at one of the large outlet malls on the way back to New York.” New York State history does not appear to be a prominent part of its tour packages at present. Again, it should be noted, the company was hired to promote New York State tourism not history tourism in New York State.

According to Viator website:

Viator, Inc. sells tours and activities through the award-winning website, ten local-language sites serving North and South American, European and Japanese markets, five fully optimized mobile sites and more than 3,000 affiliate sites that include major hotel chains and airlines, online travel agencies, city-specific sites and more. For travelers on the go – the Viator Tours & Activities App for iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android provides quick and easy hand-held access to the most memorable travel experiences, bookable up to the last minute, even in-destination!

During his introductory presentation, Tim Lewis took the opportunity to stress “destination activities” and his desire to meet with local destination sites in New York. He commented that when he visited Albany, he was unable to find destination activities.

Following the session, I introduced myself to him and followed-up with an email. It didn’t take him long to identify the key weakness of the Path through History project: no one is working on creating itineraries which could be marketed or identifying the existing itineraries.

I have developed what I think is a solution to this shortcoming in the Path through History project: Pathfinders. Years ago I suggested that the $1 million Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged to the Path project be used to hire one person in each region to create paths. Obviously that didn’t happen.

I also recommended that the history community learn to use the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) process for funding, a subject that I covered in a recent nine-part series on the 2014 awards. Now the 2015 REDC season is gearing-up, and my recommendation to each and every region or county is to create Pathfinders in your region.

As I envision them, Pathfinders would be responsible for creating sustainable Paths through History itineraries using local historical assets to broaden the reach of New York history as a tool for economic development for businesses, communities, education, and recreation.

Pathfinders should be created for each individual Path through History region. Since they would be charged with creating sustainable paths through history, Pathfinders would serve for one to two years in each region. Hopefully, at the conclusion of the program Pathfinders will have produced tour programs which can be marketed to tour operators and be included on the Path through History website.

Ever since the Path through history project began, there has been no one to create paths through history, and now the failure of the last 2 1/2 years speaks for itself. There may be a way to create these paths using the REDC process, at a regional level (the REDCs only accept regional proposals). Although the language of the application would be nearly identical, their acceptance depends on the priority of heritage tourism in each region.

Since it is unlikely that New York State will ever fund the Path through History project on its own, any chance we have of turning the Path project into a success falls on the grassroots effort of those willing to serve as their regional Pathfinders.

Considering James Fenimore Cooper’s book and the nickname of explorer John Fremont the first Republican presidential candidate (who is buried in Rockland County), the Pathfinder is espcially appropriate to New York’s history community.

6 thoughts on “Create Pathfinders In Your Region

  1. Peter,
    I just read your “ Create Pathfinders In Your Region” piece in the NY History blog.
    I too have a major problem with NY State Tourism and the Path through History program. First off, their road side signs are a disaster; way too small for someone driving by at 60+ MPH. They may not be able to help it, but some signs have way too many local destinations on them for a driver or passengers to fully appreciate. When I reached out to them on several occasions regarding this and other suggestions, I received the standard response and attitude from these type organizations , “thank you, but we know what we are doing and have a nice day.” I dealt with these same people when I worked on the Walkway Over the Hudson project from 2001 – 20010, raising awareness and finally the first 8 million dollars. Prior to the first big money, they wouldn’t give us the time of day. Now they have a destination that justifies their position. What did we know, we were just volunteers with a crazy dream!
    Monday my wife and I went to walk along the old Erie Railroad ROW that runs from Nyack to Orangeburg. I was looking for a good vantage point so I could take pictures of the ongoing Tappan Zee Bridge project. We walked from Nyack down into the Village off Piermont for a break and a bite to eat. I have been to Piermont on a number of occasions, but never took the time to sit down outside and enjoy a beautiful sunny day. It reminded us so much of Sausalito, Ca. After we ate, I convinced my wife to walk down to the pier and enjoy the views of the Hudson River. Along the way I told her about Camp Shanks and the importance of Piemont Pier during WWII. I found out later that night that 1.3 million US service personal disembarked from Piermont Pier during WWII. It was known as “Last Stop, USA!” Then I started to tell her about the Ghost Ship Fleet that were once stored in the Hudson between Tompkins Cove in Rockland County and Buchanan and Peekskill in Westchester County, from the end of WWII to sometime in the mid to late 1970s. A number of the Ghost Fleet Ships were used in the Korean War, the Suez Canal Conflict and the Viet Nam War. The other topic we broached was the “Chaining on the Hudson River.” I told her that there just wasn’t one chain, but Two. Most people in this area didn’t if know we had even one, let alone two. There were also two Peekskill Battles in the Revolutionary War that I can assume many people are not aware of them too!
    What else is new!
    Recently, someone asked me why I was working so hard on organizing a memorial ceremony/hike for the six Naval personal who perished in a plane crash on Mt. Beacon in November 1945. My gut response was, “look, we make great efforts, both physically and financially to save and preserve structures such as the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, the Mt. Beacon Fire Tower and perhaps someday, the Mt. Beacon Incline Railway and/or the day liner, SS Columbia. How can I not preserve the memory of six Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice despite the fact they all just survived the dangers of WWII. To come so far and yet be so close to making it through the War, was something I felt I needed to do. I have the upmost respect for people who served for our country throughout all our conflicts, which includes my father in WWII and his father, my grandfather, in WWI.” For your information, my Grandfather, Antonio Rocco was called back by the Italian authorities and ordered to fight for his birth country. Fortunately, Grandpa Rocco survived and I am here to share his story.
    There are so many hidden Historical Treasures throughout here in Westchester County and throughout the Hudson Valley that are either forgotten or unknown to the general public. Sadly and truthfully, some people don’t care about it one way or the other. I can think of many other locations in Westchester alone that would make a great day trip excursion for a tour company.
    There are very few people out there like you and me who search high and low for information that has been mentioned above. History, especially local history, has to be preserved and promoted until our last breath! Who else is going to do it.
    I am glad the company you mentioned is trying somewhat too create these opportunities, it is long overdue. I always said to my wife, whether we were in Florida, Arizona, California, Hawaii or even Italy; why do all these other places have great historical type tours, but not in our historic Hudson Valley? I know geography has a lot to do with it, but we have the ability to use a multitude of transportation options to get where we need to go. It’s a great thing they have the Onion Tours in NYC! Maybe someday soon, they will have the Hudson Valley Big Apple tours, shedding light on all the important historical locations and facts that surround them.
    Sorry for the long letter, but your piece really struck a raw nerve with me.
    My best,
    Dave Rocco

  2. HI Peter – Kate Sullivan here. I work with Tim Lewis and the team at Viator on their communications efforts. I hope you are doing well today.

    I saw your blog post featuring Viator today. As just a small bit of clarification, Viator offers travelers access to well over 200 tours and activities throughout New York City and New York State. So, a bit higher than the 19 referenced in your piece. It would be great if you could make that adjustment in your piece Peter.

    Let me know if you have any questions, or need any more info. Thanks, Peter. Have a great afternoon.

    Kind regards,
    Kate Sullivan for Viator

    Sullivan Communications Group
    1(973) 568-7589

  3. Kate, There are indeed myriad tours and activities and attractions listed for New York. However, it’s pretty hard to find the ones outside of NYC, aside from Niagara Falls. It would be helpful if there were a search on the Viator website for Upstate New York tours. We are trying to tap into the market of NYC residents wishing to venture upstate for daytrips and overnights. Thanks!

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