PORTLANDVILLE – Brent Baysinger looks over the calm waters of Goodyear Lake and the growing business empire he has built on its banks and said it feels humbling.
“I am blessed,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is I am just so thankful for the support, not only from family and friends but also the local community.”
Baysinger, a 2000 Cooperstown Central School graduate, was doing hospitality work in Vail, Colorado, in his 20s, when he said his mother, Lonetta, proposed a business idea.
“I very much grew up a water kid,” Baysinger said. “It was actually my mom who had the idea first. She was the one who was living here and had her finger on the pulse and saw there was a need for this. I was ready for a change and I always liked to be my own boss and do my own thing.
“I basically had the opportunity to start this, and being outdoors and on the water, I didn’t have to think long about it,” he continued.
Canoe & Kayak Rentals and Sales launched in 2009 in the town of Milford, along state Route 28. Although the economy was still reeling from the 2008 recession, the weather gave Baysinger’s business a break.
Otsego County’s tourism efforts are being refocused on outdoor activities, fall weddings and vaccinated out-of-state residents, according to a presentation given to the Otsego County Board of Representatives at its May meeting.
Harrington addressed the Representatives at their meeting, which was held via Zoom, because of the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday, May 5.
She said the group is looking to increase late summer and fall tourism in an effort to boost 2021 bed tax money.
Harrington said her group, which was spun off from the county in 2014 and added Schoharie County as a client two years ago, has shifted to a virtual campaign, allowing it to add several promotional categories and “pages” to its promotional materials.
DMC is launching an outdoor activities website that culls information and links to all the other county locations for hiking, boating, fishing, winter sports and more. Those sites include state parks, Otsego 2000’s Otsego Outdoors website, information about playgrounds, camp sites, hotels and more.
With tourism dealt another pandemic-related blow last week, Otsego County’s leaders are increasingly turning to outdoor adventures to lure visitors.
“We’re actually in the process right now of trying to launch a massive campaign to tout our outdoor adventure,” said Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corporation, which promotes tourism in Otsego and Schoharie counties.
Harrington said the tourism news has been mostly dismal in the week since Cooperstown Dreams Park announced it would require all teams playing at the park’s summer tournaments to be vaccinated for the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty of getting vaccinations for children and a hard refund deadline has left dozens of teams in a catch-22, leading to hundreds of reported cancellations.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s winter announcement that it was moving its postponed 2020 Induction Weekend to a virtual event, had already crushed pre-pandemic hopes for a record sized crowd for Derek Jeter’s induction.
However, the reopening of the baseball parks, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and Cooperstown All-Star Village in West Oneonta, was a big pillar of the county’s hopes for a renewed summer of tourism. All-Star Village has not announced similar vaccination requirements for its teams, but the Dreams Park changes make its June opening unlikely, Harrington said.
“Now that the bottom fell out with Dreams Park, our accommodations are dealing with a flood of cancellations,” she said. “So, we really need those outdoor visitors more than ever.”
HISTORY PROGRAM – 7 p.m. “History Preserved in Quilts” with Aernecke Aitchison. Free webinar, pre-registration required. Presented by Sharon Historical Society. Call 518-860-5513 or visit www.sharonhistoricalsocietyny.org to register.
WELLNESS CHALLENGE – Ongoing. Start the Spring right. Each week Leaf will issue 3 challenges to Do, Visit, or Find to get you out of the house. Snap a selfie, or a groupie and post it to their page to share the fun. Enter to win chance to win gift cards to local businesses. Complete 2 challenges each week for chance to win a bonus prize of a $75 gift card. Continues through 4/20. Presented by LEAF. 607-432-0090 or visit www.facebook.com/SpringWellnessChallenge/
OTSEGO OCTET – Feb.1 – Apr. 30. Explore local trails at the state parks, forests, and land trust sites. Once you’ve completed 8 of the 12 trails send in a form & $5 to receive the Otsego Octet Patch. Participants are encouraged to post pictures. Visit otsegooutdoors.org/our-challenge/ for info.
HISTORY PROGRAM – 7 p.m. “Ghost Towns of the Wild West: Madams, Miners, and Gunslingers” with Julien McRoberts. Free webinar, pre-registration required. Presented by Sharon Historical Society. Call 518-860-5513 or visit www.sharonhistoricalsocietyny.org to register.
DONATIONS – 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Weekdays. Check your closets for gently used artworks to donate to the CAA Spring Cleaning Bazaar. Support the local art association, clear some space at home. Drop off weekdays through March 5. Cooperstown Art Association, 22 Main St., Cooperstown. 607-547-9777 or visit www.cooperstownart.com
OTSEGO OCTET – Feb.1 – Apr. 30. Explore local trails at the state parks, forests, and land trust sites. Once you’ve completed eight of the 12 trails send in a form & $5 to receive the Otsego Octet Patch. Participants are encouraged to post pictures. Visit otsegooutdoors.org/our-challenge/ for info.
VIRTUAL THEATER – 7 p.m. New production of Shakespeare’s ‘Loves Labors Lost’ to stream live featuring ensemble of 17 actors from around the country. Loves Labors tells the story of the court of King Navarre as they swear off women to focus on their studies, only for a French Princess to arrive for a state visit, prompting all of them to fall in love with her. Presented by the Glimmer Globe Theater at The Fenimore Art Museum. Visit www.facebook.com/fenimoreartmuseum/ for info.
Shannon Kirch, manager of the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market. braves the cold for a paddle on Gilbert Lake to celebrate the launch of OtsegoOutdoors, a website listing all of the cycling, hiking and padding spots throughout the county. At right, Ellen Pope, Executive Director of Otsego 2000, gives visitors the first look at the new website, which goes live tomorrow. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)