Jun 02, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Less than two weeks after discussions began, it’s official: L.L. Bean has chosen Cazenovia Lake as the location of its latest “Outdoor Discovery School.”
“The eagle has landed,” Trustee Jim Joseph, who coordinated the deal for the village, said into his cell phone Saturday afternoon, June 1, as he and other village board members watched the green L.L. Bean trailer full of kayaks back into place near the public swimming area in Lakeland Park.
The trailer will remain there through the summer as the meeting and launching location for L.L. Bean’s kayaking Outdoor Discovery School every Saturday and Sunday, where patrons will experience a two-hour introductory class on kayaking for $20.
“Really this is to introduce people to the sport and hopefully to get involved,” said Greg Schwarz, department manager for the L.L. Bean Fayetteville store’s Outdoor Discovery School, who accompanied the green trailer to Cazenovia. “If this works out this year, it will be an advanced kayaking program next year.”
Already L.L. Bean is planning a variety of kayaking classes and tours on Cazenovia Lake for this summer and fall, such as sunset tours and fall foliage tours, as well as snowshoeing classes and tours this winter, Schwarz said.
The partnership between L.L. Bean, one of the world’s largest outdoor apparel and equipment companies, and the village of Cazenovia was broached, discussed, negotiated and brought to fruition in about two weeks.
The company announced in late April that its outlet store in Fayetteville Towne Center, which opened in 2007, will be converted to a full retail store on June 7. Unlike outlet stores, L.L. Bean retail store locations have Outdoor Discovery Schools that offer demonstrations, clinics and introductory hands-on activities for their customers such as kayaking, fly casting, clay shooting, archery, biking and canoeing.
In May, L.L. Bean representatives began looking around the Central New York region for the best location to host its Fayetteville Outdoor Discovery School. They were considering Cazenovia Lake, Oneida Lake, Jamesville Reservoir and parts of the Erie Canal.
The company initially reached out to Trustee Dave Porter, who is on the parks and recreation committee, who conveyed the interest to Elizabeth Digiacomo, who is responsible for laying the initial groundwork with L.L. Bean and having the initial conversations. She then brought the possibility to a meeting of the Carpenter’s Barn committee — since kayak rental has probably been the top-suggested use for the barn. At that meeting, Joseph heard of the opportunity and offered to help. Joseph, whose corporate background includes being the former president and CEO of Oneida Ltd., has been personally acquainted with L.L. Bean executives for 25 years.
“It was very natural for me to pick up the phone and talk to them,” Joseph said. “This is where I feel I can add value to the board, given my background.”
Joseph informed the rest of the village board at a May 20 meeting about his discussions with L.L. Bean, and asked if the partnership was something the village wanted to pursue. If so, they needed to move immediately because the company was not only considering multiple locations for the school — the municipalities of which actively lobbied for the partnership — but they wanted to start the program in early June. The trustees all agreed to have Joseph continue his dialogue so as not to lose what they saw as a great opportunity for Cazenovia.
At a May 28 special meeting of the board, Joseph said the last email he received from Schwarz said, “I do feel Cazenovia Lake is the right area for our programs,” and said the company believes the possible partnership would be “mutually beneficial.”
“I told him we were taking a very can-do approach to this,” Joseph said. “This partnership can only get better and grow.”
Within days, L.L. Bean decided to choose Cazenovia Lake, a deal was struck and the kayaks arrived in Lakeland Park. “I’m thrilled,” Joseph said.
“This was really the nicest spot of all the choices,” Schwarz said of the company’s decision to choose Cazenovia Lake. “And this is where our customers are — it’s not the north side — it’s Cazenovia, Manlius, Skaneateles.” He said that Oneida Lake was not feasible, Jamesville Reservoir was too small and Cazenovia Lake was the most interesting.
Cazenovia residents and visitors also have great interest in the school. Within 10 minutes of the L.L. Bean trailer being parked at Lakeland Park Saturday, three people walked up to ask about kayaking opportunities.
“I’m very happy. I visited Cazenovia last fall, saw kayaks on the lake but there were none available anywhere to rent,” said Jean Stevenson, a resident of Toronto, Canada, who was visiting her family. “I know how to kayak, but for $20 I’m happy to go and learn more.”
Jen Walburger and her 11-year-old son Issac also were eager for more information. “I’m excited,” Issac said.
“We’re very interested,” said Jen. “He’s asked multiple times in the past couple of years for us to get him a kayak. This is perfect for us — a great way to try out some boats. I’m going to call and sign the two of us up.”
Mayor Kurt Wheeler said this new offering of additional recreational opportunities and increased village visitation is what this deal was all about. “This [partnership] reflects the village’s desire to be flexible and open-minded in pursuit of opportunities which are good for our overall community,” he said.
A review and discussion of the contract with L.L. Bean ison the agenda for the board’s June 3 regular monthly meeting, during which the board is expected to iron-out the final details. When everything is firm, the village will publicize the schedule of guided tours/classes that will be provided, said Trustee Amy Mann.
“I am so pleased that we were able to work so swiftly to recognize such a wonderful opportunity and capitalize on it, and I see no downside,” Mann said. “No CazeNOvia here!”
The Cazenovia Lake Outdoor Discovery School will begin this weekend with a boat demonstration on Friday, June 7, and classes at 9 and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9. The two-hour classes include brief introductory equipment and safety lessons, followed by group kayaking on the lake. All materials are provided by L.L. Bean.
The schools will be for people ages eight and up, with a maximum of 14 people per class. Children ages eight through 14 must be accompanied by an adult; those ages 15 or above can kayak solo.
The cost of the basic classes start at $20. Class booking and payment will be done through the L.L. Bean Fayetteville store — not on-site at Lakeland Park — by visiting the store or calling 637-0974 and paying with a credit card.
Parking for the classes will be on Albany Street and Willow Place, not in the Lakeland Park parking lot.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.