BEEKMANTOWN - The Beekmantown Gateway Welcome Center will re-open this year after lawmakers in Albany this week restored money in the 2011-12 state budget for the center's operation.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Plattsburgh, confirmed today that the new state budget includes $196,000 to re-open the Gateway Welcome Center, which serves as a visitor center for southbound travelers on I-87, the Adirondack Northway, and is popular with Canadians.
"I think we know the value of the center," Duprey said. "It is definitely the gateway of Canada into the United States, including tourist destinations like Lake George and beyond."
When state legislators and then Gov. David Paterson proposed shutting down the Gateway Centers in Beekmantown and Binghamton in 2010, Duprey, Sen. Betty Little and tourism officials from throughout the state fought for the centers to stay open, arguing that they help orient travelers to New York state. In the end, the Binghamton center stayed open, and the Beekmantown center was closed. But local legislators lobbied this year to restore the money for Beekmantown.
"It's never been far away from the focus," Duprey said. "Sen. Little was instrumental with this.
Little could not be reached for comment.
Garry Douglas, president of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, said he is pleased with the news, and it didn't come as a surprise.
"We were very confident that Assemblywoman Duprey and Sen. Little would get this done," Douglas said. There are two dimensions to the funding situation for the Beekmantown center that need to be addressed, according to Douglas. One is economic and the other is political.
"It couldn't come at a better time," Douglas said, referring to the upcoming summer season and that the center's re-opening this spring will have a positive impact on the region's economy. The Canadian economy has been strong, and that was evident with the increase in Canadian shoppers in 2010. He expects that trend to continue this year.