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$100G from NYS to boost LI history tourism

Sagtikos Manor in West Bay Shore, whose original

Sagtikos Manor in West Bay Shore, whose original structure dates back to 1697, is one of many preserved historic places on Long Island. Credit: Carl Corry, 2011

Efforts to boost the number of tourists visiting Gold Coast mansions, lighthouses and other local historic sites are being backed by $100,000 from New York State.

The money will be used to develop brochures, a website and a Facebook page, both with video clips. The five-year plan targets New York City residents, school groups, families and others who may be unaware of Long Island's historic sites.

A multiple-choice survey for the state found 31 percent of visitors to Nassau and Suffolk counties came for the beaches, 30 percent to shop, and 25 percent for landmarks and icons. (Respondents could give more than one answer.) Twenty-three percent went to historic sites.

"We want to increase that number," said Brian X. Foley, deputy regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. "Visitors usually think of our beaches first . . . Long Island is not always thought of in terms of heritage tourism."

Foley, a former Democratic politician from Blue Point, led a committee of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council that devised the marketing plan. The council approved it unanimously last week.

In a 20-page report, the committee estimated $1.2 million in additional economic activity would occur if 100,000 more tours of historic homes, gardens and other attractions took place each year. The figure assumes each tourist would visit two sites and have a meal on the Island.

The grant will be administered by the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning. The Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission plans to donate $15,000 in advertising support.

Foley said it was critical that the region's tourist promotion groups, historical societies, hotels, restaurants and transportation companies work together. "We need a multipronged approach involving multiple partners," he said.

Tourism pours about $5 billion into the local economy each year and employs tens of thousands of people, according to Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association business group.

The state support, part of a $1-million allocation statewide, is part of the Path Through History initiative launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to showcase New York's history. The program also will include more than 200 new road signs across the state directing motorists to historic sites.

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