Mohawk Trail Collaboration sparks economic development project

To: Media From: Amy Shapiro, Business Development Director, Franklin County CDC

Scarecrows are typically designed to do exactly what their name says—scare away crows. But the ones that will decorate the Mohawk Trail from Athol to Williamstown starting October 17 – 19th are designed to attract flocks—
of tourists!

The Scarecrow project is part of the first-ever collaboration of business organizations across western Massachusetts, who are joining forces to promote tourism, one of the main economic drivers of the region. The theme: Celebrate the Mohawk Trail at 100.

“What better way to get everyone collaborating than celebrating and promoting something that links us all together: The Mohawk Trail,” says project leader Amy Shapiro of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. “And the
100th anniversary of the Trail’s opening to automobiles is the perfect opportunity.”

One hundred years ago in October, the Mohawk Trail was designated by the Massachusetts legislature as a scenic byway for automobiles, America’s first. Tourism soared. The trail today is still a fun and beautiful drive, particularly in the fall foliage season, and business groups have planned special events, exhibits and promotions to coincide with the 100th anniversary.

“This is the first time that we have all teamed up together with one theme and goal, to promote tourism and community development all across western Massachusetts,” said coalition partner Mary Vilbon, the Executive Director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association. “And we want people to know how much there is to see, do and experience here all the time.” It was Shapiro and Vilbon who worked together to get the $56,210 grant to fund the

Joining the FCCDC and the GSFABA in the coalition are: Mohawk Trail Association, Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, North Adams Office of Tourism and Community Events, and the North Quabbin Visitors Bureau.

One of the team’s first missions was to create and distribute 50,000 rack cards that highlight what travelers will find all along the Trail all the time, not just in one town or area. They also commissioned a promotional video that shows the
history of the Mohawk trail with vintage photographs of the early days as well as the sights and experiences travelers will find all along the trail today. The video will be accessible on all the partners’ websites through this link businesses all along the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) and beyond were encouraged to join in the fun, and offer a promotion with $19.14 specials for services, meals or items. One local entrepreneur who snapped into action was Beth Reynolds, owner of basecamp photo in Greenfield. “We are reviving a 1950s Mohawk Trail tradition, a juried photo contest,” said Reynolds, who made her cost of entry: $19.14.

Is the first-ever collaboration working? “Absolutely!” says Shapiro. “Everybody is talking and working together for the first time, and that in itself is a success.” Shapiro is looking for other opportunities for collaboration, too. As for the bottom line on the Celebrate the Mohawk Trail promotion, the coalition will collect the outcomes and report on the findings in January 2015.

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