Two Tri-Lakes area attractions are achieving notable attendance milestones. And it is interesting that both of these tourist draws started with grassroots, community efforts.
When 5-year-old Maleeya Martin from Round Hill, Va., walked through the doors of the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, she became the museum’s 500,000th visitor.
“A half a million is a big number in the Adirondacks,” Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe correctly pointed out.
Ratcliffe said that more than 150,000 of the total visitors to date are children, noting that staff “believe in the power of education to make the next generation a great one, and knowing that sea of kids has been through here and all have a memory of something they liked is a great feeling.”
She reports that the Wild Center’s visitors have come from all 50 states and at least 40 countries.
The science-based facility is “dedicated to understanding this rare place, is committed to helping people explore not a small collection but one that lives and breathes across the entire expanse of the Adirondacks.”
The Wild Center building, which opened in July 2006, is modern but maintains a rustic feel. It is situated on 31 acres of Adirondack splendor and offers a popular live otter display, walking trails and, right now, guided canoe excursions. The new Planet Adirondack exhibit is the first major display expansion since the facility opened.
Over at the Adirondack Carousel in Saranac Lake, the milestone is much more modest but equally impressive, especially considering that the facility only opened at the end of May. The carousel will soon reach 11,000 visitors.
If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss this unique attraction. Each animal on the merry-go-round, all carved by volunteer artists, represent the creatures who call the Adirondacks home: beaver, moose, otter, rabbit, trout and more — even a blackfly. And adult riders are as welcome as the kids to climb aboard for a $2 ride.
Executive Director Pamela Palumbo said children are enthralled with the animals. She told one story about some special-needs children who visited the handicap-accessible ride. A blind boy was among the group, and he excitedly named each animal after feeling it, a testament to the detail of the artistry of each creature.
The most inspiring aspect of these two tourist treasures is that they started as the vision of local women: Betsy Lowe in the case of the Wild Center and Karen Loffler for the Adirondack Carousel. Those two women had the initial ideas, which were embraced by community members, who then captured the interest of local businesses, officials and volunteers, who helped secure financing.
It was a long and difficult pathway to establishment of both of these facilities, but they now stand as testament to local imagination, talent and perseverance.