CUNNINGHAM’S CORNER: The County Owns Tourism Promotion NowFree Access

Owning the Issue



I had a boss once who wrapped up every meeting with, ‘OK, what do we own?’ It was one more chance for each of us to recount what, exactly, we would do to solve this or that problem. I thought it was a great technique.

And now the county firmly, absolutely, owns tourism promotion. The Legislature last week approved making the county the chief tourism promotion agency, and subsequently, County Executive MaryEllen Odell named Tracey Walsh, a lifelong resident of Carmel, as director of tourism.

As you may recall, I am horrified by the debacle left by the previous Board of Directors of the Putnam County Visitors Bureau. It is unclear to me what assets in tourism promotion have been preserved, what have been lost or squandered through inattention, and even what may have been destroyed when the board decided to walk away in a tiff with the lawmakers and Odell. I suspect it will be helpful that Walsh understands Carmel in a deep way, and so too a good part of county government and its levers. Also, that she has experience with a group with multiple stakeholders, as in her previous posting with the American Cancer Society.

After the miserable abdication by the previous board of essentially just blowing everything up, including the county’s tourism website, there’s nowhere to go but up. Let’s hope Walsh moves quickly. In particular, I hope she moves rapidly to repair relations with hospitality businesses and sites in every corner of the county. Most of the county’s notable attractions are not actually in Carmel.

Chele Farley, who is running for Congress for the seat now held by Sean Patrick Maloney of Cold Spring, last week called for federal action by the EPA to address harmful algae blooms, as have a plagued a number of lakes, including Lake Casse in Mahopac. Farley is a Republican; Maloney, a Democrat. I don’t know. Maybe the EPA has some particular knowledge to bring to bear here. But I kind of think that if they do, it’s going to bring more regulation, more oversight, that maybe we do not want. Perhaps some of these areas are simply overbuilt?

In any case, in Putnam Valley, Supervisor Sam Oliverio seems to have found a nearly fool-proof solution to algae blooms at Lake Peekskill. The company the town hired,, uses biotechnology and an analysis of feedback loops and the stratification of oxygen and temperature levels in the lake to fight the toxic algae. Weighted hoses are pumping air into the lake, breaking up the stratification and actually increasing the water’s depth as the toxic algae no longer have ideal growing conditions.

I’m a skeptic, naturally, after three decades in the business. But I will tell you I was impressed, particularly by CEO Dave Shackleton’s analysis of the science in play. Most of what we’re currently doing, such as buying herbicides, is actually making the problem worse, though it does enrich the herbicide companies. And if the EPA comes to town, surely they will come to help us. Shackleton, though, may actually solve the problem.

Until next week.

Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Putnam County News and Recorder, in Cold Spring, and of the Putnam County Courier. Reach him with complaints or suggestions, and advertising requests, at, or 845-265-2468.

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