Out & About: Lebanon Visitors Center reopens after hiatus 

The Lebanon Visitor Center is located in Colburn Park and faces East Park Street. (Upper Valley Business Alliance photograph)

The Lebanon Visitor Center is located in Colburn Park and faces East Park Street. (Upper Valley Business Alliance photograph) Upper Valley Business Alliance photograph

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-23-2023 2:40 AM

LEBANON — After a roughly four-year hiatus, the Lebanon Visitor Center has reopened at Colburn Park.

The Upper Valley Business Alliance, Granite State Ambassadors and Lebanon Historical Society have joined forces to operate the center, which is owned by the city of Lebanon. It is located behind the bandstand and faces East Park Street.

“I just kind of felt it was a shame that it wasn’t utilized more,” said Tracy Hutchins, executive director of the Upper Valley Business Alliance. Previously, the center was operated by the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Lebanon Visitor Center will be open from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday nights from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. There are also plans to have it open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays as long as there are volunteers to cover that shift.

When the Lebanon and Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce combined to form the Upper Valley Business Alliance in 2019, the new organization did not have the capacity to run the visitor center as it became established in the area, Hutchins said. She didn’t forget about the small space in downtown Lebanon, however, and started to figure out how it could be run better, with volunteer duties more spread out.

She reached out to the New Hampshire Granite State Ambassadors, a Goffstown-based nonprofit organization that places volunteers throughout the state to promote New Hampshire, to see if they would be interested in having volunteers at the visitor center. Hutchins’ motivation was twofold: The Granite State Ambassadors have a strong volunteer base, and they also have a presence throughout the state, including the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Volunteer ambassadors who live outside the Upper Valley can volunteer in Lebanon and then use that knowledge to help visitors in other parts of the state who might be visiting the region during their travels.

“They’ll volunteer in a center where maybe they’re not as familiar so they can learn about that area,” said Kelly Bryer, executive director of the Granite State Ambassadors. “The great thing is they’re going to take this knowledge back.”

The partnership also helps the Granite State Ambassadors with recruitment efforts in the Upper Valley. An upcoming training program at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield scheduled for August had two spots remaining as of Thursday afternoon.

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“I think we’re just getting more and more visitors to the city,” Hutchins said. “We’re also getting more business travel here as well. It’s a good match, I think.”

Last Thursday, Norma Goodnight and Bob Wilson, of Manchester, were doing their first shift at the Lebanon Visitors Center. The couple jumped at the opportunity to spend time in a region that they haven’t visited too often.

“The more we learn, the more we can share with others,” Goodnight said, adding that the couple regularly volunteer at the Manchester Airport.

Around halfway through their shift, they had spoken to three people and learned more about Lebanon, including the branch of the Northern Rail Trail and the Lebanon Opera House.

“There are so many little things people would be interested in, they just don’t know about,” Wilson said.

When people enter the visitor center, they are met with a poster featuring notable women in Lebanon’s history. There are also brochures about the city’s covered bridges and brochures for nearby attractions, such as the AVA Gallery and Art Center.

Nicole Ford Burley, who is Lebanon’s historian, chairs the town’s Heritage Commission and serves as curator for the Lebanon Historical Society, said that the partnership between the organizations is welcome.

“It seemed like such a great opportunity to use the space and use it to promote Lebanon,” Ford Burley said. “This has potential to be really great at increasing the visibility for the organization and just promoting Lebanon in general.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Granite State Ambassadors and to sign up for training, visit nhgranitestateambassadors.org. Those interested in volunteering at the Lebanon Visitor Center can email Hutchins at uvba@uppervalleybusinessalliance.com.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.