Submitted by guest blogger Emma Gray
It's no secret: 2020 was a strange year. We all adjusted to a "new normal" and tried to find a balance between the old ways and the new. Big parties and celebrations were not a thing and vacations may have been canceled, but there was at least one thing remained unchanged throughout the year. And that was the Adirondack ability to persevere.
One shining example of a place keeping tradition alive in 2020 while weaving in new COVID safety protocols is The Hedges on Blue Mountain Lake. Since 1921, The Hedges has been an Adirondack escape for families, couples, and individuals.
A brief history
Hamilton County is a place with small towns, big outdoors, and even bigger history stories! From the Gilded Age to towering pines to Adirondack guides to historic fire towers, every inch of this landscape has a story to tell. The story of The Hedges as a hotel begins in 1921, when the Collins family purchased the property in the current hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake. Just a year later, The Hedges was up and running. The Collins's owned The Hedges until 1972, the year the Van Yrepen family purchased and took over the rustic resort. They ran The Hedges for 28 years, until 2000 when Rip and Pat Benton purchased the Hedges. Pat made several renovations to the cabins and rooms, which remain with the property today. In 2018, The Hedges LLC purchased the property and currently participates in the management. This group of 60 loyal former guests enjoys spending time on the gorgeous property. They bought it to ensure The Hedges legacy remains and continues for many years to come.
As we all faced a global pandemic, the traditional opening date of Memorial Day was uncertain for The Hedges in 2020. There were many changes that needed to be made, and this was especially evident for many local businesses, notably those in the hospitality industry. With efforts to welcome hundreds of returning guests seen each season, The Hedges management and staff carefully followed New York State and federal CDC guidelines, doing everything possible to safely open. “Our goal was to find ways to make the season safe and enjoyable for all," said manager Jamie Thomas. With that, about 3 weeks after the usual opening, The Hedges greeted guests on June 17.
Using guidance from health and tourism departments, The Hedges had a successful and healthy season. Hospitality and maintenance team members wore masks and gloves during their shifts and practiced adequate social distancing measures. In the mornings, staff and guests got their temperature checked to ensure an even higher level of protection. Informational signage designed by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism was displayed throughout the property.
As far as dining, the Benton Dining Room, originally constructed in 1924, has been a communal gathering place for generations. The Hedges waited long enough to comply with updated safety standards, so indoor and outdoor dining remained an option for the season. Many tables were removed to guarantee ample social distancing measures and guest comfortability. Picnic tables were also added outside by the lean-to, giving guests the option of enjoying their breakfast or dinner next to beautiful Blue Mountain Lake. Guests really loved the outdoor dining in the fall, with the changing leaves and glorious September sunsets as a backdrop.
Besides dining room safety, room and general cleanliness was a huge factor of the success the Hedges in 2020. Many sterilization procedures were instituted, including fogging the rooms with hydrogen peroxide after housekeeping. This was an idea the management team researched and is often used in hospitals and hotels. Along with improved housekeeping efforts, fogging ensures that everything in the rooms is clean and disinfected. Additionally, boats, paddles, and chairs are all disinfected and separated to keep all equipment clean and suitable for guests to use.
Social media was also a key player in keeping former and future guests up-to-date and well informed. "Hedge Clippings" were added to The Hedges website last season and were sent out via email subscription twice a month. Updates on safety, the local area, history, and new staffing can be found in the Clippings. Having this information readily available was one of the reasons several guests felt their safety was a top priority. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were also other platforms for media updates, featuring daily posts and photos.
The Hedges wrapped up its 2020 season on Columbus Day weekend, continuing to take precautions to ensure guest and staff well-being and safety. Although the camp and staff made many unexpected adjustments in 2020, this season was a great achievement for the historic resort, as well as its grateful visitors. While we don't know what 2021 will bring, it's best to stay informed and know before you go. Travel updates continue to be available on many websites and businesses and organizations are constantly updating online info for present and future travelers. As we head into the new year, we all need to be vigilant about maintaining social distance of 6 feet or more and wearing masks when we cannot social distance. This action will help ensure that we can all safely return to enjoy traditions at The Hedges together again.
This blog was written by Emma Gray and Janelle Hoh. Staff and on-site photos were provided by The Hedges on Blue Mountain Lake.