Editorial: Destination Shelter Island

JULIE LANE PHOTO The Chamber of Commerce map of the Island

Is tourism a benefit or a curse?

The latter, for sure, when the obnoxious, the over-privileged and the boorish descend on the Island with no idea where they are, who they’re dealing with, and treat locals as members of the servant class.

With the start of the summer season this week, many Islanders dread the arrival of what Reporter columnist Robert Lipsyte — in his guise as “Codger” — and others have dubbed as the “touron, that inelegant, barely acceptable term that many people on Shelter Island, including Codger, use to describe those inelegant, barely acceptable visitors who walk, talk, dress, drive and park in ways that mark them as tourist morons.”

But as with all forms of bigotry, the sensible and well-mannered visitors — there are many — are lumped in with the appalling — not as many, but they make up for a small sampling with atrocious behavior.

As for the advantage of tourism to the Island, there’s no doubt local businesses benefit and some thrive.

The Chamber of Commerce heard a presentation recently  from the non-profit East End Tourism Alliance advocating for legislation that is making its way though the state Legislature to create what is called the “Peconic Region Tourism Marketing District.”

Under this proposed legislation, funds collected by taxes on B&Bs, hotels and private homeowners operating short-term rentals would be spent here on “programs and activities designed to attract visitors to the district,” the proposed law states.

This seems to be a correct way to spend these tax dollars, since most of that money, experts have said, flows to the western part of the county and not here.

At the Chamber meeting, however, Linda Eklund, owner of the Ram’s Head Inn, noted that if the Island is in a regional tourist district, the lion’s share of money spent could go to the North and South forks, and the Island would be cheated of funds.

It is still early in the long, sausage-making process to legislation. First the state Senate and the Assembly have to pass the law, which will face difficulties when upstate lawmakers have to vote for something benefiting the East End. And then the five East End towns have to individually vote to join the newly created tourism marketing district.

But the proposal merits serious consideration, and the chamber is to be congratulated for presenting the idea in a thoughtful and professional manner.