Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tourism would benefit from numbered county roads

I often like to tell people I live out on County Road 7. That’s usually met with some head-scratching and confusion because Niagara County is not a place that uses county road signage. Thus, unless you are versed in the County’s history, you will be unfamiliar with the system.

It shouldn’t be that way. Numbered county roads and the appropriate signage serve great benefit.

If you’ve ever been to Allegany County then you know what I’m talking about. There, the attractive blue background, yellow lettered signs adorn every county road, making it easy for residents and visitors alike to navigate the back roads that are just as much primary roads as the more well-known state routes. For example, if you want to get from Alfred to the Wellsville area, you’d jump on County Road 10 or County Road 12. If you plan to travel from Friendship to Belmont you’d likely use Route 31A.

A numbered highway system makes it easy for connecting the dots on your travels, meaning you don’t have to remember lengthy road names which often change when travelling through various towns. Plus, the junction signs that come with such a practice further the convenience of travel. It’s really tough to get lost.   

This has proven to be a major asset and a tool for the various businesses in Allegany County that rely on tourism. The county’s tourism department uses the numbered system in its brochures to promote the ag, arts, and scenic trails while using it as an aid for parents who might be visiting their kids at Alfred University or Houghton College.

Such a way of identifying our roads would prove quite meaningful in Niagara County. Here, tourism defines our economy, rather than complimenting it and, as recent history has shown, we are much more than Niagara Falls. Tourism experts are making sure that Niagara Falls is just one stop of a multi-faceted experience and they have been sending tourists further out and deeper into our county, whether it’s to enjoy the artsy flair of Lewiston, the fishing in Newfane, the waterfront in Olcott, the locks in Lockport, the Niagara wine trail, or the agritourism in places like Gasport.

Getting people to those locations requires an infrastructure with ease of use. Sure, a lot of people have GPS systems, but many don’t travel with them and few rental cars come equipped with them. And, many Niagara Falls visitors originally didn’t expect to leave the City limits until the options were presented to them. We need to make it simple for them to enjoy all of the great things we take for granted.

It’s not so easy to navigate a whole new world when we throw a map at them or they go to a website and they read and have to remember names like Upper Mountain Road, Lockport Road and Slayton Settlement Road. It would be much simpler if they could reference and retain County Roads 5, 6, and 7, respectively.

That’s especially important when they don’t speak English (but everybody “speaks numbers”). One busy day last summer in Olcott I counted 6 different foreign languages being spoken by tourists. How did they get there and did we make it easy on them?

Being an international destination we have to be embracing and accommodating…and it starts with our highway system.  All of our county roads are well-maintained by the County’s excellent road crews and they have seen years of investment from residents. Why not capitalize on all of that and promote these thoroughfares accordingly? Not only will the tourists benefit, but so will every one of our wineries, restaurants, shops and farms.       

From the 06 June Greater Niagara Newspapers 

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