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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ross


A unique and exclusive feature of Erie County's economy as a part of the Midwest's economy is our strong performance in tourism. Built around our greatest asset, Lake Erie, our tourism economy is a defining factor and competitive edge when comparing Erie County to similar communities.

As proud as we are of our tourism economy, it also proved to be a downfall for our region in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. With strict travel restrictions, the tourism industry came to a grinding halt. Despite warm weather enabling some activity to go on in this industry, the onus was still on our small businesses to make consumers feel safe and secure with getting our of the house. We're proud of these companies and RISE Small Business Innovation Grant winners for the extra effort they made to restore the outdoor recreation industry.

1. Crystal Rock Campground

Having just purchased Crystal Rock Campground prior to the pandemic, owners Heidi and Greg Lockwood found themselves in a very difficult situation. Planned improvements and activities to grow the business likely wouldn't be possible without high tourist traffic to the area. Nonetheless, they took all the right steps, prioritizing customers and their safety. While camping may be safer than most activities with ample space to social distance, there was still room for improvement. The Lockwoods signed on to CampersApp. The new digital tool for campground camping allowed visitors to complete contactless check-in, digital waivers, contactless camp supply shopping, and emergency alert systems. This tool helped Crystal Rock make the most of the brief camping season, ensuring guests were safe.

2. West River Paddling Company

Similar to camping, at first glance paddling on the river seems it should be safe from coronavirus. But our small business owners have to think of the big picture and every step of the process. West River Paddling did just that, implementing a host of new procedures and investing in new equipment to make the paddling experience nearly contactless and undoubtedly safe. Reducing their equipment inventory and requiring reservations with limited group size could certainly impact their business, but West River knew it was the best way to keep everyone safe. They also took their waiver digital and implemented new cleaning procedures that would greatly impact turnaround time. But most impressive was their investment in EZ Dock kayak launches - allowing kayakers to launch unassisted and therefore keeping physical distance from others.

While we know these changes in operations, technology, and equipment are expensive and time consuming for these local business owners, we're confident that their investment in their customers' health and safety will pay them back in the end. Thank you Crystal Rock and West River for all you've done to revive the outdoor recreation landscape in Erie County!


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