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Coalition is recipient of award from state Group honored for work in tourism development

The Southtowns Community Enhancement Coalition has received some recognition to go with its grants of the past two years.

The group was one of three statewide to receive the Governor's Quality Communities Award for Excellence from the New York Department of State's Quality Communities Program.

The award is for the coalition's initiative to partner together for tourism development. The municipalities involved are the towns of Evans, Eden, Brant and North Collins and the villages of Angola, Farnham and North Collins.

In the presentation, Lt. Gov. Mary O. Donohue recognized the group for its efforts to implement a tourism strategy that "enhances farmland viability, promotes transportation opportunities and strengthens small businesses."

The coalition has already received $61,000 in grants. According to Evans Community Development Director Lori Szewczyk, the award could help the group get more.

"Many state grants do give you extra points if you've received this," she said. "It signifies that you've crossed a threshold, that you're doing more for less, working together and saving taxpayer money."

The group's efforts thus far have included cataloging potential tourism assets in the Southtowns. The next step, Szewczyk said, will be to get funding to create a 501(c)3 nonprofit group so both private and public money can be channeled into the tourism efforts.

"We're beginning the strategic plan, the implementation plan," she said. "The strategic plan isn't like a comprehensive plan. Instead, it focuses on specific actions that need to be taken to get these sites visitor-ready, what we need [in order] to do this."

The other award winners were the Essex County Town of Schroon and the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council in Rockland County. About 10 groups competed for the award.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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