CATS launched their travel writing contest in September with the purpose of promoting economic vitality through outdoor recreation based tourism. “People are researching vacation destinations online, so as they look into visiting the northeast, we want them to see these articles about New York’s Champlain Valley and get inspired to come here, enjoy the outdoors, patronize local businesses, and tell others about this beautiful area,” said Chris Maron, executive director of CATS. “We are grateful to the J.C. Kellogg Foundation for underwriting this contest.”
An independent field biology study turned out to be especially fruitful for both teacher and student. Every week since January 2011, Westport ninth-grader Peter Hartwell and mentor David Thomas Train have been exploring the Champlain Area Trails along shoreline, streams, wetlands, and woods near Westport. Those explorations eventually prompted them to enter the Champlain Area Trails Travel Writing Contest. Their jointly written essay, entitled “Wildlife, Connected In and Out of Town,” earned them the first-place prize of $500.
“David and Peter make us realize that we are surrounded by fascinating wildlife and that we can learn much about our wild neighbors if we just pay attention. The authors also uncover on their outings evidence of the Champlain Valley’s long human history. As they say, ‘It’s a lively neighborhood for all who walk, hop, paddle, fly, crawl, swim, bound, run, waddle, slither, or put out seeds,” noted contest judge Phil Brown, who is editor of the Adirondack Explorer. Their essay, Brown added, “was infused with the greatest familiarity with the region and its inhabitants.”
Visitors to the CATS website were also able to have their say and pick their favorite entry. Jessica Wimett, of Wadhams, won the $250 People’s Choice Prize for receiving the most online votes—41 percent. Her essay, “A Great Resolution,” tells the poignant story of how she named her baby during a hike on a CATS trail. Wimett said, “I decided to enter the contest because I immediately had an emotional response to thinking about this area, and the sense of community and nurturing I’ve discovered here.” [Read more about the winners at the CATS website.]
The contest entries are also available to be read on the CATS website, and I will be creating posts about the finalists here in days to come.