Promoting Tourism Through Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs
By Lorraine Cortez-Vazquez, New York Secretary of State
New York’s waterfronts have shaped our heritage and way of life and are a major focus of the state’s tourism industry. It is for this reason that the Department of State, through the Office of Coastal, Local Government and Community Sustainability, has worked in partnership with communities across the state to make the most of their waterfronts. Through the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), we have helped more than 300 waterfront communities strengthen their regional economies, provide recreational access and protect natural resources—making these communities attractive places to visit.
The LWRP is a voluntary program that enables communities to establish a vision for their waterfront. The program helps residents identify uses and projects that bring people to the waterfront, promote sound economic development and protect natural and cultural resources. A critical part of the LWRP is a solid strategy to achieve results, and our staff provides guidance and expertise to help communities create a step-by-step implementation program. This is backed up with funding through the Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (EPF LWRP), which provides the important financial assistance needed to make revitalization a reality.
Under the leadership of Governor Paterson, we’ve had many successes in waterfront revitalization. Among them, the city of Oswego and the village of Clayton are two prime examples of how the LWRP promotes tourism through waterfront revitalization.
The heritage and economy of the city of Oswego, located at the confluence of the Oswego River, Oswego Canal and Lake Ontario, have long been associated with shipping and related industrial and commercial facilities. With the decline of industry in past decades, vacant buildings and abandoned industrial lands began to dominate Oswego’s waterfront and downtown. Recognizing the need to reinvigorate the city, civic leaders prepared an LWRP, establishing a vision of the waterfront as the focus of the downtown—rather than its back door—to which recreational boaters and anglers and other tourists would flock.
By implementing this vision, the city has undergone a striking renaissance. With expertise from the Department of State and funding through the EPF LWRP totaling $1.6 million, the city has completed the Oswego Esplanade, a 1.5-mile-long promenade along the Oswego River and Canal adjacent to the downtown and constructed docks for recreational boaters. The esplanade hosts numerous festivals and events and brings people to the downtown; since its completion, 15 restaurants and four hotels have opened and commercial vacancies have significantly decreased. The annual Harborfest alone now draws 200,000 visitors to the downtown and provides $7.5 million in direct expenditures. In addition, the public docks have established the city as a major harbor center for boaters, and last year, 1,600 recreational boaters passed through the city. The city has also been able to better accommodate anglers and fishing derbies, which now account for over $42 million in tourism revenues for Oswego County.
The village of Clayton, located in Jefferson County along the St. Lawrence River, has enjoyed success through the LWRP by enhancing its tourism. Working with Department of State planners, the village constructed a dock for excursion boats, renovated the historic Opera House as a community facility and completed a Riverwalk that links water front sites and the downtown. The Opera House is now a cultural center and destination for visitors—hosting 170 events last year. All of these projects were funded through the EPF LWRP; in all, Clayton has received nine awards totaling $2.25 million.
Building on its success in bringing people to the waterfront, the village is now working to redevelop an eight acre former industrial site for a new hotel and a variety of other uses, continuing community revitalization with a focus on strengthening its tourism industry.
Tourism development and waterfront revitalization go hand in hand, and successes like these can be found statewide. The Local Waterfront Revitalization Program – along with the expertise of the Department of State and funding from the EPF LWRP – are keys to further developing the state’s tourism industry.
Counties are eligible to receive EPF LWRP funding, and a strong partnership with counties will help us to continue to expand these successes.