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Visitors Center Livens Up Downtown North Fork

NORTH FORK – When Chamber of Commerce president Scott Marsh organized an Economic Development Forum in September 2012, one of the things born out of that event was the North Fork Visitors Center.

Dan Cunning, CEO of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau (YSVB) and North Fork resident, committed at that meeting to provide whatever training and funding was necessary to get the project off the ground, and North Fork ran with it.Jenny Pearson stepped up to take on the task of Volunteer Coordinator, and after being trained by Judi Hussain at YSVB, she then trained 22 volunteers to staff the new center in North Fork.

On Friday, May 24, the brand new Visitors Center held an open house to celebrate, and opened for business the next day. It is a prime example of how this tight-knit community puts their collective minds and hands to something and makes it happen.

Gathering at the Visitors Center on Opening DayThis has definitely been a collaborative effort. The first thing one notices when stepping through the door is the barn wood counter, topped by a beautiful slab of pine. Marc Mandel, owner of Crossroads Lumber in North Fork, donated the wood and Jeremy and Daniel O’Dell did the milling and prep work.

Anya Albosta provided an Apple computer, and Josh Freeman stayed up all night before the opening installing a CD drive, programs and updates.

Ken Goodwin of Goodwin Lumber donated lumber to the project, and Joseph Davis, Susanjoy and Anya Albosta painted the walls.

Bob McKee of North Fork Hardware provided tools for use during the remodel, and Rah installed the saloon doors and the deck on the back of the building, replacing a sketchy one that was hanging on by a thread and not usable.

The decking itself is made from recycled milk jugs, and was in use at someone’s house. It is now being repurposed at the new Visitors Center.

Jenny Pearson Julie Konno Scott Marsh Joan Constable Kathy ToomsLocal artist, studio owner and teacher Joan Constable (aka Connie Carpenter) brought in four beautiful paintings of the area in times past that used to hang in the Town Hall. They are a striking addition to the space, and it will be good to have them out of the closet and on display for everyone to enjoy.

Ponderosa donated a router and is providing free DSL. Tom Wheeler stopped in with a saw blade from the old mill, and Jean Butterfield, local musician extraordinaire, provided the soundtrack for the festivities with her own home-grown music.

The energy of the day just seemed to invite participation, and a visitor from Colorado, appropriately named McGyver, saw all the activity and asked if help was needed.

“I’ve got tools in my car,” he said, and then proceeded to help hang the saloon doors, paint the fascia on the front of the building, fix some broken things here and there, and hang the new visitors center sign, which had been recently discovered buried somewhere in the back of the Dance Studio two doors down.

Jean Butterfield sings at NF Visitors Center 5-24-13 Photo by Don GroveWithin minutes of the sign going up, two ladies passing through town were delighted to learn that they could get maps and information on their trip through the area, and went on their way with brochures in hand.

The YSVB provided display racks and materials, and have more items in mind as the center builds out. The plan is to incorporate a small business resource center and the Chamber of Commerce into the space later in the year.

With a budget of $800, Scott says they only spent $400 to get everything done so far, and they plan to throw a big party on Friday, June 14, to raise more money.

Live music, dancing, food and assorted merriment will take place at Three Springs starting at 6 p.m (gates open at 5:30), with Idle Hour Winery and South Gate Brewery making their local creations available for purchase. Click here for the full article on the festivities.

Scott is looking forward to strengthening partnerships with local organizations such as the History Group, the Sierra Mono Museum, the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway Association, the Community Development Council, the Forest Service, and any other groups that would like to join the effort to make North Fork a more inviting place for visitors to stop and spend some time.

He also has another Economic Development Forum in the works for later in the year, with plans to build on this past year’s successes and expand the business community downtown.

Another bit of news is that the Visitors Center has entered into a contract with Fresno State to provide an intern 35 hours per week for the next five years.

“There’s no guarantee that we’ll get an intern every semester, but we’ll have the center fully staffed,” says Scott.

The Visitors Center will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 10 to 2 on Sundays.

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Sierra News Online

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