Associate Director Ann Nygard learned of the geotourism concept, defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place–its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents; when working in partnership with National Geographic in her native Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on a Geotourism MapGuide. Now part of the Center for Sustainable Destinations at NG headquarters in Washington, D.C., she works with destinations to help tell the story of their place.
Northeast Kingdom, Vermont –The seasons shape how folks experience this tri-county region of Vermont. Winding dirt roads pocked by potholes from the winter freeze were filled with spring mud when the local Geotourism Stewardship Council began community forums. Maneuvering around these craters was a welcome change from avoiding snowdrifts blown across the roads; potholes don’t move. Hopes were high that mild weather would encourage Kingdom residents to nominate sites for the Geotourism MapGuide at town hall style meetings, through emailed nomination forms, and in special kiosks set up in individual rural communities.
All winter, the Geotourism Stewardship Council workgroup got together every other Tuesday at the Hardwick Village Restaurant to plan the three-month outreach sessions. We had added incentive to brave the wintry conditions: arrive early and French toast from homemade bread was still available on the slate chalkboard menu. Maple syrup from a local sugarhouse, however, was always available. Unlike in the rest of the country, syrup goes beyond breakfast: Maple-glazed salmon, Maple cream pie, Maple smoked ham, Maple buttered baby carrots, Maple pumpkin bread. You get the idea.