What are Putnam’s Tourist Spots?

Legislators question emphasis on golf course, farm

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Putnam County Legislature’s Rules Committee voted on Aug. 13 to add the county’s new Tourism Department to the county charter and send the measure to the full Legislature, final steps in establishing the agency.

But two legislators, Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown) and Amy Sayegh (R-Mahopac), questioned a provision directing the department to promote events at county-owned sites such as Tilly Foster Farm and Tilly’s Table; Veteran’s Memorial Park; and the Putnam County Golf Course. The provision also named Boscobel, in Garrison.

“If you’re going to name one, you should name all tourist attractions,” Montgomery said, while Sayegh cautioned against implying that the Tourism Department should exclusively promote county-owned facilities.

Tilly Foster Farm
Tilly Foster Farm in 2004, when it was managed by the Society for the Preservation of Putnam County. The county took over in 2014. (Wikimedia)

Audience members, too, questioned the wording. “It’s important that you leave this with a broad base,” said Lynne Eckardt, who is on the Southeast Town Board but said she was speaking as a resident. She recommended that references to specific sites be deleted.

But Neal Sullivan (R-Carmel/Mahopac), who chairs the committee, and Jennifer Bumgarner, the county attorney, said County Executive MaryEllen Odell wants county-owned sites emphasized because she feels they were overlooked by the previous tourism agency, the Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau.

“We’re just highlighting key items,” not diluting the message about other visitor draws, Sullivan said. “We’re going to leave that language in there.”

Odell named Tracey Walsh as the Tourism Department director on Aug. 7, a day after the Legislature approved funding. The move followed the dissolution of the Visitors’ Bureau, with which Legislators had expressed dissatisfaction.

Walsh, a Carmel High School and Syracuse University graduate, spent the past nine years at the American Cancer Society, most recently as senior community development manager.

The county received about 20 applications for the position, according to Bumgarner. The committee that selected four finalists for Odell’s review consisted of Legislator Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson), Putnam County Finance Commissioner Bill Carlin Jr., Deputy Commissioner of Highways and Facilities John Tully, and Putnam County Golf Course General Manager Mike McCall.

Tourism generates $63 million annually in spending in Putnam County, according to the most recent data compiled for New York State by a consulting firm.

Economic development

The draft amendment sent to the full Legislature instructs the Tourism Department to work closely with the Putnam County Economic Development Corp. (PCEDC), which, like the former Visitors’ Bureau, is a nonprofit that depends on county funds and uses county office space. Its mission is to promote Putnam to businesses to add jobs and broaden the tax base.

Abels

Kathleen Abels, a Southeast resident and former manager of community outreach and development at New York State Electric and Gas Corp., was named director of the PCEDC last month, succeeding Jill Varricchio, who left in December.

Abels spoke to the Legislature’s Economic Development Committee on Aug. 13 about her plans, which include repurposing buildings “with an eye toward historic preservation”; encouraging the re-occupation of vacant structures; attracting firms in the life sciences, information technology, film and television, and other professions; and aligning the interests of the various players. “If we’re all rowing in different directions, the boat just goes around in a circle,” Abels said.

She pledged to concentrate her efforts on supporting infrastructure, such as two sewer projects pending in Mahopac and Brewster and a distillery in Carmel that, she said, Odell considers priorities. In addition, she cited the need to support projects that reflect innovation and entrepreneurial initiative.

Abels said her immediate agenda also includes meeting with town supervisors and other elected officials. Responding to a question from a member of the public, she said she would suggest to the PCEDC’s board that its meetings be opened to the public.

One Response to "What are Putnam’s Tourist Spots?"

  1. Patty Villanova   August 23, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse on the tourism front, I read the latest from Putnam’s own Swamp, aka the county Legislature. Now it’s official: Cold Spring is once again going to get screwed out of the money and services that we deserve in return for the sales tax that isn’t being shared with our towns.

    Honestly, as I went through Liz’s article I thought my head was going to explode. How is it even POSSIBLE that Putnam’s ONLY tourist attraction that brings people here 365 days a year, is not even MENTIONED in the proposed legislation? Do any of them (besides Legislator Montgomery) even know about Cold Spring?

    Speaking of which, why didn’t our own representative, Nancy Montgomery, stand up for us and DEMAND that we get the lion’s share of any money that is going to be spent? It’s not like she doesn’t live here or anything. If anyone knows Main Street, it’s Ms. Montgomery and I am terribly disappointed that she didn’t put up more of a fight on our behalf.

    As it stands now, we are in peak tourist season and despite all the taxes we pay to support our county government, they can’t even get their collective act together sufficiently to get the website and social media sites back up and running. By the way, what ever happened to the person or persons who sabotaged the now defunct Visitors Bureau? Is that going to get swept under the rug too?

    Further, we now have two people in charge of this effort who, judging from their backgrounds, apparently don’t know the first thing about running a county tourism operation. There are so many things hanging fire that need to be done, but nothing much is going to happen I suppose till next year. Maybe.

    Many thanks to The Current for continuing to publish these stories. I don’t know what it will take for the merchants and stakeholders to wake up and see how they’re getting shafted. Sadly, people get the government they deserve. This is a very sad state of affairs indeed.

    By the way, if anyone from the county who reads this post feels that I’ve misstated the facts or the situation, by all means let us know. I’m sure that the editor will be glad to publish your rebuttal.

    Reply

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