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Mayor Hidy invites Canadian developer to discuss tourism

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MASSENA - An up and coming destination in Brockville, Ont. could mean good things for Massena tourism, according to Mayor James F. Hidy.

Mr. Hidy invited Simon A.F. Fuller, one of the principal developers of Brockville’s Maritime Discovery Center, to speak to a luncheon crowd at the Massena Elk’s Club earlier this week.

The center, which will open next summer, will feature a 27,000 square foot “Discovery Hall” with interactive exhibits about the Thousand Island region’s history, ecology and economy as well as a theater and aquarium.

For example, visitors will be able to find out how glaciers formed the St. Lawrence River Valley, he said. Or discover how cargo from 700 transport trucks could fit into one ship on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Mr. Fuller said.

Mr. Hidy said he invited Mr. Fuller to Massena after he, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell and Town Councilman Albert N. Nicola attended a seminar about the center in Brockville.

“I thought it was such a great thing that’s happening on the other side of the river,” he said. “Why couldn’t something like this be done on this side of the river? Let’s reinvent Massena. We’re at a crossroads right now.”

The site will host edcuational seminars for school groups during off-peak times of the tourist year, Mr. Fuller said.

“The Discovery Center’s chief mission is to inspire curiosity,” he said. “If you think about it in terms of inspiring curiosity instead of giving in-depth knowledge, that’s what our facility is intended to do ... The stories are almost endless in the region.”

The exhibits will be designed in such a way to keep people coming back, Mr. Fuller said. And in future years, he hopes the success of the Maritime Center could spread up and down the St. Lawrence River.

The Discovery Center wants to collaborate with other destinations on the American and Canadian sides of the river to create tourism packages and direct visitors elsewhere in the region. That’s where Massena and Ogdensburg could come in, Mr. Fuller said. Massena does not have to worry about creating a new, “silver bullet” project to draw the masses annually, he said.

Current attractions St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project and the seaway’s Eisenhower and Snell locks could fit into a larger, multi day “tourism package” for visitors, he said.

“We can’t market Brockville or Kingston or Alexandria Bay or Massena on its own,” Mr. Fuller said. “Everyone can’t think in terms of silos.”

Mr. Hidy agreed, and said he hoped tours of the power dam could resume after they were shut following Sept. 11. Other tourist attractions shut after 9/11 have reopened and Massena’s should too, he said.

“No one in their right mind is going to walk through that place with a ton of bombs strapped to their backpack,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Hidy sees a lot of potential for developing tourism on the U.S. side of the river.

“There’s no reason why we can’t collectively do it here,” he said.

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