Now More than Ever, Eco-tourism is Key to Reviving Tourist Industry
by Ramsay Adams
Has it been long since you wanted to tell someone to "Go take a hike?" That’s something we love to do at Catskill Mountainkeeper. Our trail systems, and even our backcountry roads, in Sullivan County and the Catskills are some of the best in the nation.And over the last year, Trailkeeper.org, part of our Trailkeeper Network® initiative, has been a big part of our work to promote eco-tourism. Trailkeeper.org is a great online resource for hiking trails and local area attractions and amenities in Sullivan County that has drawn the attention of eco-friendly tourists, and encouraged them come to our area.
Trailkeeper.org was developed by Catskill Mountainkeeper, in partnership with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, the Sullivan County Planning Department, the Sullivan County Visitors Association, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Morgan Outdoors. Launched last year, Trailkeeper.org has proven a big success, attracting hikers from all over the NYC Metro area and the nation. It also encourages the use of multi-purpose trails in the Catskills by promoting eco-friendly activities such as hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.TrailKeeper.org contains area trail maps, hiker hints, tips and photos, recommendations for specific trails, information about local shops, lodgings, restaurants and attractions. It makes Sullivan County’s extensive network of trails more accessible and promotes the Catskills as a striking destination for eco-tourists.
For local residents, many who never realized what great trails and public lands were only minutes away from their homes, the website has also helped to enhance their quality of living and their regard for the local environment, which is key to our great country living style.
Remember, while the big news around Sullivan County this month was that the Gaming
Amendment passed in New York State and we are likely to be the site of at least one casino, we can’t forget the importance of promoting eco-tourism in our Catskill Mountain region. That’s not only in terms of preserving our beautiful, but fragile ecology, but also in attracting potentially millions of non-gambling tourists to stay and spend in our region.
To be blunt, eco-tourism still remains the key to reviving our tourist industry in Sullivan County. It’s very important to build on the success of initiatives like Trailkeeper.org. That’s what's truly going to grow the influx of tourists to Sullivan County.How lucrative is eco-tourism? Here’s some proof: The Audubon Society has reported that in terms of bird-watching in New York alone, 3.8 million people watch birds and other wildlife, and generate approximately $1.6 billion in ecotourism revenue annually.
So it's just not going to be solely casinos that are going to help build tourism and our local economies. It's continuing to build on the success of initiatives like Trailkeeper.org where visitors will spend important tourist dollars in our hamlets and villages instead of self-contained destination resorts.
Catskill Mountainkeeper is one of many environmental groups that works hard to educate and promote open space protection and environmental preservation. An important strategy in this quest is to inspire and assist local businesses, chambers of commerce, and tourism associations to develop successful strategies and programs to market their natural resources such as hiking, biking, fishing, and other activities.
We will continue to build on the sucess of our Trailkeeper Network® initiative. In the meantime, go to Trailkeeper.org and figure out where and when you are going to take a hike!
Additional support for Trailkeeper.org comes from the Upper Delaware Council, Sullivan Renaissance, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, the National Park Service, Sullivan County Community College Hiking Class, and many volunteers.
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