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New management team takes over at VIC

January 17, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer (jlevine@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

PAUL SMITHS - The Paul Smith's College VIC has a new manager and program coordinator who are looking to build upon the nature center's previous successes.

Andy Testo was recently brought on as the general manager while the college hired Martha Van der Voort as the program coordinator.

The VIC is a multi-use facility that has hiking, snowshoeing and ski trails, as well as a central building that hosts large groups and festivals. Testo, who graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said the ski trails are one of the biggest draws for the property, which is also home to both classroom and field courses for students enrolled at the college.

Article Photos


Paul Smith’s College VIC general manager Andy Testo, left, and Martha Van der Voort, the new program coordinator, stand outside the VIC’s main building Wednesday, Jan. 17.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

"We always have the best snow, hands down," he said. "Unless there's some fluke that comes off of the Great Lakes, we're sitting several inches prettier than anyone else. So that gives us the leeway to have a longer season that starts earlier and [ends] later."

Testo said attracting skiers to the VIC is part of a regional effort and he is looking forward to working with non-profits, state land mangers and pay-to-ski centers to create a cohesive attraction to the area.

"We've got a warm building; we've got food and beverages; we've got a place to hang out, to learn something else," he said. "We've got a lot of avenues that give that family-friendly atmosphere to a place. The trails are reliably groomed and maintained.

"It's not that we're directly trying to compete with other cross-country skiing and snowshoe venues. We're here to legitimately work with them. Like this Adirondack Snowshoe Festival that's going on Feb. 24 and 25 is a combined event with the village of Saranac Lake, Dewey Mountain and the VIC.

"We're also trying to work with Barkeater Trails Alliance for our connections with the Jackrabbit Ski Trail. We all realize that we're in it together, so any way that we can share resources or combine on a fun race series to cross-promote each other, it benefits the Adirondacks as a region."

The VIC itself has 25 miles of trails, most of which are groomed for skiing. In addition to the recreational facilities and college courses, the VIC also offers lectures, how-to classes and naturalist-led walks to look for owls and other birds, mushrooms and wildlife. The VIC also hosts the annual Homesteading Festival, SAM Fest and a variety of other events that draw hundreds of people to the center.

Van der Voort will head up the calendar of events for the VIC. She said that for now the staff will continue to host well-known events while exploring new options as well.

Van der Voort previously worked with the VIC as head of the friends group when her husband worked at PSC. Since then, she has moved around but said that running programs at the VIC is a like coming home.

"I live just right down the road, so it's really a homecoming for me," she said. "I love this place. I want to honor what's been going on. I feel strongly about that because things are very different from before. We've got a fun winter set of programs centering around skiing and snowshoeing and we've got some [wildlife] tracking workshops and we're going to do an owl prowl, which we haven't done in a few years."

Van der Voort said her main goal is to encourage people to get outside and enjoy everything the VIC offers while playing to PSC's hands-on learning approach.

"The things that we're doing we're trying to incorporate some sort of hands-on component to whatever we're doing," she said. "If kids are here, get them to make a bird feeder. Or let's make bird houses so that we're actually doing experiential stuff too.

"We're [also] toying around with maybe developing a month-long program around wellness issues - there seems to be a lot of traction with that right now. But for me, it's getting people outside."

Van der Voort also said a naturalist is working to develop a junior ranger program for kids, and the VIC is now offering waffle Sundays, where skiers and snowshoers can have a waffle breakfast at the main building.

The VIC is fast approaching its 30th birthday, having opened to the public in 1989. At that time, the state Adirondack Park Agency operated the facility on about 3,000 acres leased from Paul Smith's College. A satellite facility was opened in Newcomb the following year.

But in 2010, Gov. David Paterson proposed closing both facilities. The Newcomb center was turned over to SUNY ESF and Paul Smith's took over operations of the VIC, which is located on state Route 30 about a mile north of the main campus entrance.

For more information about the VIC, including a trail map and calendar of events, go to www.paulsmiths.edu/vic.

 
 

 

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