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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    Local lawmakers join fledgling tourism caucus

    State Reps. Mike France, R-Ledyard, and Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, have joined the General Assembly’s newly formed tourism caucus, the brainchild of Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme.

    The caucus, which numbers five senators and 33 representatives, advocates for policies that enhance tourism in the state.

    Caucus members convened for the first time April 5, and have since met with the Department of Transportation to discuss signage at tourism destinations and attended a presentation on tourism by Tim Sullivan, deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, at an event in Mystic hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

    In addition to touting the state’s well-known attractions, legislators say they’re also interested in promoting forests, parks, fairs, festivals, museums and nightlife.

    Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations could also contribute to tourism, they say.

    “I was interested in joining this caucus because tourism is such a vital part of southeastern Connecticut’s economy,” McCarty said in a statement. “We need to continue promoting tourism as a source of revenue at a time when the budget is cutting such important services. In Waterford alone ... we have the Crystal Mall, Waterford Speedbowl, the O’Neill Theater and Harkness Memorial State Park, which provide visitors with shopping, entertainment, history and many outdoor activities. In Montville, we have the (Mohegan Sun) casino, the Wide World of Indoor Sports and Nature’s Art Village.

    “I would like to see a collaboration and ongoing communication formed between the caucus and the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, as well as the chambers of commerce and other organizations, which have long brought vitality and economic growth to our coastal communities.”

    France said a focus of his first term has been improving signage along the Connecticut Wine Trail, which features a number of farm wineries. He said he hopes the caucus will continue the effort and also get involved in promoting the Thames River Heritage Park project.

    Caucus members also include Reps. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington; John Scott, R-Groton; Kevin Ryan, D-Montville; and Paul Brycki, D-Griswold.

    Formica and Urban are co-chairmen.

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