Town to assist in Wine Country bus promotion

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A pilot shuttle bus program will transport people to wineries, hamlets and local businesses.

Southold Town is throwing its support behind a new pilot shuttle bus service to connect wineries, hamlets and local businesses this Veterans Day weekend.

During Monday’s work session the board said it would assist the East End Tourism Alliance, Long Island Wine Council and North Fork Promotion Council in promoting the event.

“This would be an opportunity to advance business,” said Southold’s special projects coordinator Philip Beltz. “It needs to be successful so it can be continued.”

The pilot program is being made possible through a portion of a $335,000 “I Love NY”  grant, aiming to help promote agritourism on the East End, said Joan Bischoff of the North Fork Promotional Council during the meeting.

The buses, which will be provided by Hampton Jitney, will run in a loop between Riverhead and Greenport. There will also be feeder buses from the Cross Sound Ferry and Long Island Rail Road. Stops will be made at each location approximately every 45 minutes during business hours.

The groups behind the shuttle are currently planning a ‘Taste North Fork” festival to coincide with the pilot program on Veterans Day weekend. The three-day event will feature a full range of activities celebrating local wines and foods across the region. Wineries, as well as local breweries and distilleries, will be invited to offer special tasting menus paired with foods from local restaurants.

Mr. Bischoff said he’d like the town’s help to expand participation to include small businesses, chambers of commerce and historical societies. He hopes stops could also be made within each individual hamlet.

“The hope is [that businesses] can come up with themes to showcase their community,” he said.

“It is a fantastic idea,” said Greenport Business Improvement District president Peter Clarke said after the meeting. “It makes sense for Greenport. It’s a pedestrian spot. People could stop and see a lot of things at one time.”

Mr. Clarke said he thinks the village could be use as a hospitality center where visitors can learn about the different locations where the shuttle will stop.

Mr. Bischoff said he hopes the shuttle program can continue next year for the entire summer season.

“We have to make sure it’s not a bridge to nowhere,” he said. “We would like some sort of annual event in the slow season to bring in tourists.”

The organizations are now working with the towns and the Hampton Jitney to finalize the exact shuttle route.

The Town Board agreed to host a meeting for all interested parties at the end of September to help promote the pilot program. No date has been set.

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