Just like a fine wine, it takes time to cultivate a good community-driven foundation for sustainably developing tourism and outdoor recreation. Since 2017 UNH Cooperative Extension’s Community and Economic Development team has been working with Sullivan County, community partners, and Solimar International to facilitate the creation of a strategic plan and vision for growing the region’s local tourism economy in a way that is true to the essence of the Sugar River region’s scrappy DIY communities.
Within recent weeks, two key priorities identified during the six-year process made significant strides: the formation of a nonprofit corporation to act as the official destination marketing organization, and the release of the draft Sullivan County Trails Plan for public comment.
Sullivan County contracted Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission to create the plan, which relied on insight from 494 survey responses and public engagement at four forums. The draft Plan and associated trail maps can be viewed by visiting www.sctrailsplan.com and clicking on the links to the documents. A form is also embedded onto the site, where feedback can be submitted.
The origins of these two milestones date back to 2017, when the Regional Economic Profile planning process was initiated. Led by Sullivan County and UNH Cooperative Extension, the process involved extensive community involvement spanning a series of on-line and in-person roundtables and focus groups convened to develop a snapshot of Sullivan County’s economic ecosystem.
Throughout those public engagement sessions, the desire for a unique but accurate regional identity rose to the surface. By focusing on the natural and cultural assets that are already there - such as an abundance of trails, breathtaking vistas, historic sites, and natural amenities – the numerous opportunities for developing Sullivan County’s reputation as a cultural and outdoor recreation destination became apparent.
Unlike the advisory council, the newly formed nonprofit corporation will be able to raise funds, hire employees and consultants, and execute plans to achieve its mission of developing, promoting, and sustaining Sullivan County’s regional assets to promote a thriving visitor economy and improved quality of life for all who live and visit. The Sullivan County manager and representatives from the Greater Claremont, Newport Area and Lake Sunapee Chambers of Commerce have designated seats on the board of directors.
Discover Sugar River Region accomplishments
- Love Sullivan
- 2019 Business Roundtables
- Online focus groups during Covid
- 2021 Destination Council established by Sullivan County
- Solimar hired to write strategic, operational, fund raising and marketing plans
- Launch of Discover Sugar River Region marketing strategy and website plan
- Framework for membership/sponsorship
While waiting for the IRS to approve its application for 501.c.3 status, UNHCE's Community and Economic Development field specialist, Rebecca Levy, hopes to provide research and technical assistance for the development of internal policies, procedures, and best practices.