The Discovery Trail partnership of the Cayuga Nature Center, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell Plantations, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Museum of the Earth at PRI, Sciencenter, The History Center of Tompkins County, and Tompkins County Public Library celebrated ten years of collaboration in 2009. Established in 1999, the partnership grew out of years of informal collaborations among museums and the public library in Tompkins County, New York, to provide a structure for ongoing synergy. At that time, the partnership received seed funding to hire a part-time coordinator and launch initial collaborative marketing efforts. The Discovery Trail was incorporated in 2007 and became a 501c3 in 2008.
The partnership maintains and promotes the Discovery Trail, a visible public linkage and co-marketing effort among the partnership's eight organizations. To date, the Discovery Trail has pursued its goals through collaborative programming; a website (www.discoverytrail.com); development and distribution of more than 30,000 brochures annually in Tompkins County, Southern Tier, Syracuse, and Rochester; participation in community-wide events; a biannual visitor survey and subsequent focus groups with community leaders and local citizens to analyze visitor data; and media coverage through editorial pieces, press releases, public service announcements, and advertising. The partnership carries out joint events, programs, and exhibitions. Examples include "A Special Place: Landscapes of Tompkins County" (2000), "Frankenstein" with community read (2002), "Discovery Month" (2003, 2004), "Light in Winter" (2004), Tompkins County Public Library Avenue of the Friends (April 2009 and 2010), as well as marching in the annual Ithaca Festival parade. The partnership coordinator works closely with the Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau in all aspects of regional marketing.
The Discovery Trail partnership is currently funded through Discovery Trail member contributions and the Tompkins County Strategic Tourism Board. Past contributions from the Triad Foundation and Community Foundation of Tompkins County played a vital role in the beginning years of the collaboration. The Tompkins County Public Library serves as the partnership's fiscal agent.
In 2005 the Discovery Trail entered into a collaboration with the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) and Ithaca City School District (ICSD) to form Kids Discover the Trail! (KDT!). KDT! connects the eight ICSD elementary schools with the eight Discovery Trail sites by providing curriculum-based field trips and site-specific books to take home for all pre-K to fifth grade students. This program is funded by gifts from local foundations, businesses, and community members, and is supported by ICSD. For more information visit http://www.ipei.org/programs/collaborations/kidsdiscoverthetrail.php.
Staff from the partnership's eight sites meet regularly and include the directors, public relations and marketing, and education teams. These meetings give partnership professionals the opportunity to share information, resources, concerns, and new ideas to better serve our visitors.
The Discovery Trail Coordinator organizes marketing, joint events, project development, programming, KDT! administration and projects, website updates, and staff linkages.