By Denise Richardson
Link to complete article here: http://www.thedailystar.com/local/local_story_096040018.html
The Central Leatherstocking Region no longer exists as an official tourism name.
Instead, the region that includes Otsego, Chenango and Schoharie counties will be called the "Central New York Region," officials said Monday.
The change is a good one that will help marketing efforts, Audrey Robinson, tourism director for Chenango County, said. The local office has struggled with promoting Chenango’s location, she said, and being part of a region that is more geographically designated will help with tourism development.
Many people aren’t familiar with the "Leatherstocking" references to 19th-century author James Fenimore Cooper of Otsego County and his "Leatherstocking Tales," Robinson said.
The Central New York name will tie into her efforts to market this year’s festivals, such as Colorscape, and events in the "heart of New York" in Chenango County, she said Monday.
The Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, Adirondacks and Catskills are more clearly defined regions, tourism officials said, and Central New York will better define the eight-county region.
Deb Taylor, Otsego County director of tourism, didn’t return a message left at her office late Monday afternoon.
Jim Walter, president of the Central New York tourism organization that sought the change, said in addition to the three local counties, the group includes Broome, Oneida, Herkimer, Madison and Montgomery counties. The plan to change names started two years ago, he said.
"It was a unanimous move on the part of the eight counties," Walter said.
Visitors spent $1.76 billion in the region in 2008, the most recent year for available statistics, Walter said, and the tourism industry employed 32,170 workers.
Walter said the change didn’t require legislative approval, but state lawmakers in the region were apprised of the plan, which recently was approved by the Empire State Development Corp.
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, said in a media release that they asked the state to make the name change at the request of tourism officials.
"While James Fenimore Cooper’s ÂLeatherstocking Tales’ is an important part of our history, the Central Leatherstocking designation never really created an identity for our region’s tourism industry," Destito said in a prepared statement announcing the name change.
The switch wasn’t to disavow New York heritage, Griffo said in the release, and each county will retain its cultural and historic identity. "The new name will simply better identify our geographic region," he said.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, supported the change for marketing reasons, Jeff Bishop, the senator’s spokesman, said Monday.
Dennis Mullen, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., said in a March 18 letter to Walter that the state agency and Division of Tourism promotional materials will use the new name and the Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation also will be among departments notified about implementing the change.
“We understand that changing signage along our highways is important to brand the new name,” Mullen said. “Be patient as we work to implement these changes with appropriate state and federal agencies.”
“Central Leatherstocking” signage may be changed when a sign needs to be replaced as a matter of maintenance, and the name switch may take a couple of years to complete, tourism officials said.