State launches initiative aimed at boosting Lake Ontario tourism

James Neiss/staff photographerThis file photo from May shows New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he walked a low-lying street in Olcott while surveying damage along the Lake Ontario shoreline. In this photo, the governor is pictured with, from left, Niagara County Director of Emergency Services Jonathan Schultz, Newfane Town Supervisor Timothy Horanburg and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. Cuomo announced on Wednesday a new state plan to boost tourism along battered Lake Ontario shoreline communities. 


New York state has launched a new campaign aimed at boosting tourism in the Lake Ontario region in response to recent flooding that has impacted communities along the shoreline. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new initiative on Wednesday, saying it includes free fishing on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Lower Niagara River through Labor Day as well as 50 percent off state campgrounds and vehicle entrance fees along the lake and river.

In addition, Cuomo said the state will begin airing a new television ad in multiple neighboring states to promote the new campaign and activities in the region. The state is also providing more than $5 million to modernize the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Oswego County.

Cuomo said the campaign will serve to remind visitors considering travel to New York state that Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River areas are open for business and filled with great opportunities available for weekend trips or extended vacations.

"Lake Ontario and the assets we have in the upstate region are second to none - and while tourism is way up and it's a big economic generator, in the wake of the recent flooding in the area we have to get the word out about what we have here," Cuomo said. "That's why we are launching a new campaign to promote tourism near Lake Ontario and our point is very simple: if you are looking for a fantastic, affordable and family friendly vacation - look north to Lake Ontario. We are also building back better and stronger so that we can withstand this new normal of flooding, and that's what the resiliency and economic development initiative is all about."

The tourism campaign follows Cuomo's announcement earlier this year of the creation of the REDI Commission, a multi-agency task force charged with developing a plan to harden infrastructure and increase resiliency along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, while strengthening the region's local economies. The REDI Commission includes up to $300 million in funding available for communities impacted by Lake Ontario flooding. 

State officials estimate that recreational fishing in the Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands regions provide $121 million in regional economic benefits.  

For the first time ever, Cuomo said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is waiving fishing licenses and license fees for fishing on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Lower Niagara River starting today and lasting through 5 p.m. on Labor Day. During this time, all state rules and regulations regarding seasons, catch rates, and size limits still apply. 

To encourage visitors to explore New York's state parks and historic sites, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is offering 50 percent off new campsite reservations and vehicle entrance fees at 30 state campgrounds, parks and boat launches along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River for visits through September. The sites along Lake Ontario include: Chimney Bluffs, Fair Haven; Fort Niagara, Four Mile Creek; Golden Hill; Hamlin Beach; Lakeside Beach; Mexico Point boat launch, Oak Orchard, Sandy Island Beach, Selkirk Shores; Southwick Beach; Westcott Beach and Wilson-Tuscarora. 

A new 30-second spot highlighting popular activities and attractions on and around Lake Ontario is airing in targeted markets, including downstate New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Cuomo's office said the ad is also prominently featured in a digital campaign that includes advertising and social media promotion, complementing the travel-specific content on, like a 48-hour itinerary of recommended destinations for a perfect weekend trip to the Lake Ontario region.

The ad celebrates the region's historic significance by showcasing Youngstown's Old Fort Niagara - the oldest continuously occupied military site - while paying homage to the region's nautical heritage by featuring the H. Lee White Maritime Museum in Oswego and the world-class fishing on picturesque Lake Ontario.


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