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Experts critique Fredonia tourism

FREDONIA -- A group of "secret shoppers" from the West Coast has been making the rounds of Chautauqua County businesses and one of them had plenty to say about what he saw in Fredonia, Village Board members learned Monday.

Trustee Susan Mackay reported on a recent program sponsored by the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and several municipalities and businesses in which representatives from Destination Development of Seattle did a "walk-about" through the county this past summer and assessed the county's tourism quotient.

Mackay learned from presenter Roger Brooks that a community's best publicity is word of mouth.

The basics of tourism include getting visitors to spend money while they are in the community. Brooks spoke about a "Four Times Rule." For example, if someone travels one hour to reach your community, the community must be able to keep that visitor busy for at least four hours to make the visitor feel the journey was worthwhile.

"It takes a village" to create a successful tourism program in a municipality, Mackay said. It is a group process with everybody working together.

Mackay said Brooks shared some ideas on how Fredonia might do a better job attracting visitors. They included:

*Create a more knowledgeable downtown visitors information booth staff.

*Parking meters that gave more time for less money.

*Better business signs.

*Better signs designating public restrooms.

*More crosswalks on Main Street.

*Promotion of Canadaway Creek, which runs through the downtown district.

*The creation of a primary visitor lure to attract tourists.

"We need to start to take a look at some of these things and start planning for them," Mackay said. She said she intends to hold a public meeting on the tourism findings in the future.

In other business:

*Fredonia will apply for reimbursement funding via National Grid's 10,000 Trees Program for trees planted in the village.

*Trustee Gary Damico gave a report on a recent meeting he and Trustee Michelle Twichell attended at which village landlords commented on village housing inspection regulations. Mayor Michael Sullivan said, "We need to know which rules we have some control over," and review them.

The matter will be the topic of discussion at a board workshop in January.

*Village Attorney Sam Drayo will review information received by the board about an electric and gas cooperative Through Erie County that could save the village $1,500 a month in electricity costs and $1,600 a year in natural gas.

*Rob Lancaster, village water treatment plant operator, gave a report on a recent state Department of Environmental Conservation inspection of the plant. The DEC said the plant needs an operation and maintenance plan, as well as an emergency action plan should the dam someday "let loose," Lancaster said. Village engineer Rex Tolman will be consulted on the action plan.

The board meets again Monday, beginning with a workshop at 6:30 p.m., followed by the regular board meeting at 7 p.m. in Village Hall.

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