June 4, 2013

Editorial: Capitalizing on our history


---- — How often do we take a moment out of busy days to reflect on the advantage the North Country has in attracting visitors by virtue of our pivotal role in U.S. history? Not often enough, probably.

It’s true that people tend to take for granted what they have never been without. But think of what happened hereabouts in the days and years leading up to the formation of our country. Few geographic areas can claim to be such historic areas, as well.

The subject came to mind while reading of a recent commemoration at the Saratoga Battle site of the surrender of British Gen. John Burgoyne to American Gen. Horatio Gates on Oct. 17, 1777. The Battle of Saratoga will live forever as one of the turning points in the colonies’ struggle to win independence from towering world power Great Britain.

Saratoga National Historical Park has taken control of the site of the surrender, a knoll along Route 4 a mile south of Schuylerville. What could be more appealing to lovers of American history than standing on the site of that magic moment?

Several days before that surrender, Gen. Benedict Arnold had defeated the British during two battles in nearby Stillwater. Historians point to that collection of events as the turning point in the American Revolution. Burgoyne’s surrender of his sword is immortalized in a famous painting by renowned artist John Trumbull.

This region can’t claim Saratoga as its own, though it surely is a proud neighbor. But it most certainly can claim roots to events every bit as significant. Gates was able to triumph at Saratoga in large measure because Americans had delayed a British fleet at the Battle of Plattsburgh months before. And the Battle of Cumberland Bay was a turning point in the later War of 1812, which secured American freedom for good.

Any area with this kind of heritage has enormous advantages over regions competing for tourists. In the summer, we can claim lake activities comparable or superior to any area. In the winter, we can point to the slopes surrounding Lake Placid as providing not only world-class sports for that season but a history of its own, second to none.

Thus, it makes sense for all of these historic points along the Champlain Valley down to Albany to merge their assets into one giant campaign to come and experience some of the most important components of the nation’s formative years.

Saratoga has a fame all its own. We can capitalize on it, augment it, enhance it with ours. We are all proud of the reputation this area enjoys thanks to the efforts of far-sighted leaders.

It can be even better with wider coordination.