Lakes to Locks Passage is a New York State Byway, stretching from the Albany Capital region to the Canadian border—a region of spectacular landscapes laden with history and culture. Lakes to Locks Passage was established in 2002 by the New York State Legislature, and that same year received the Federal Highway Administration’s premiere designation as an All American Road. The corridor embraces an interconnected waterway across four regions: The Champlain Canal/Upper Hudson River, Lake George, Lake Champlain in New York, and Quebec’s Richelieu Valley.
To foster stewardship of this landscape, the Lakes to Locks Passage Heritage Center Program builds a network of community organizations, museums, libraries, and cultural groups along the corridor to bring a seamless interpretive experience based on a shared heritage. The program offers an authentic visitor experience through visitor information and interpretive facilities, providing a window to the local communities, their stories, and culture. A key feature of this program are Waypoint Communities—cities, villages, or hamlets that have the ability to “meet and greet” the visitor. Waypoint Communities serve as a hub. Some Waypoint Communities have made significant investments to serve as a gateway to their region. Lakes to Locks Passage develops partnerships to establish Heritage Centers in each Waypoint Community.
Heritage Centers serve a vital role. They are prominently located on the byway, ensuring that they are one of the first places people will stop when entering the community. When linked together, these centers provide connections to the heritage within the byway corridor. These centers are the key to building an emotional and intellectual connection between the traveler and the place they have come to visit.
As museums and cultural groups discover thematic connections in their stories, exhibits, and events, they are no longer trying to survive on their own. Through workshops and trainings, the Lake to Locks Heritage Center Program builds strong leadership, engaging programs, community involvement, and networking—key elements for sustaining organizations.
Lakes to Locks Passage helps establish the key components of community-based destination stewardship (also called sustainable or place-based tourism). It encourages visitors to stop, stay, and spend money in a way that benefits the entire community, serving as the basis for community revitalization and a sound local economy. Lakes to Locks Passage recognizes that visitors are looking for help to navigate and explore new places, so a successful Waypoint Community offers visitors a “cognitive map,” which tells them where they are going and what they are looking at. It also creates a feel-good experience by showing that community members care about visitors.
Consumers of place-based tourism crave authenticity. The purpose of Lakes to Locks Passage Heritage Centers is for the people who live here to tell their stories—in a meaningful and engaging way—striking an emotional chord, so visitors remember the authentic experience and share it with others. Heritage Centers allow visitors to engage with “real people” who have a special affinity for the area. Typically volunteers, these people serve an important role as Lakes to Locks Passage Ambassadors. By sharing their stories, Ambassadors build awareness, appreciation, participation, leadership, and ultimately, a commitment for stewardship of the community’s historic, natural, and cultural resources for future generations.