Teen seeks to boost tourism in her hometown

Girl Scout Gold Award project becomes a public service


Brittany Browner may be young, but she’s already able to see the value of tourism in her hometown — and the need for it, too. As a member of Girl Scout Troop 138, Brittany, a senior at Oyster Bay High School, has found a way to encourage others to experience what could be taken for granted or never seen at all — the rich history in Oyster Bay.

She has created a pamphlet, “Teddy’s Tour,” that includes 13 historical high points in the hamlet to encourage visitors to take a self-guided tour. She is in the process of building a web page now. Her final step will be to link the tour online to the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce website. She says her project will be completed in the next couple of weeks. Visitors on the chamber’s site will then be able to click on the different tour locations to receive information, and also have the ability to make a printable version of the pamphlet.

It’s a part of Browner’s project for her Gold Award, Girl Scouting’s highest honor. Achieving it requires 80 hours of work, which includes meeting with mentors, creating a project plan, presenting the plan to the Girl Scout Council and then completing the project.

“By creating Teddy’s Tour, I’m targeting tourism in Oyster Bay, which is such a small town,” Brittany said. “This is also a way for people who do live here to learn about the businesses in town. They’ll pass them when they take the tour.”

She has heard a great deal about the need for businesses to survive in Oyster Bay by way of her mother, Michele Browner, who was president of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce from 2010 to 2012 and remains active.

“Brittany wanted to focus on increasing visitorship in Oyster Bay,” Michele said. “She’s been listening to me talk about it for years. It’s dinner-table conversation.”

Michele, who was also a Girl Scout, is her daughter’s troop leader. Being a Girl Scout is a big part of Brittany’s life. She has been a member of the organization since she was in kindergarten.

“I started talking with the girls about the Gold Award two years ago,” Michele said. “We did exercises and activities to prepare them. Many wanted to do it, but out of the 13 girls, three will succeed.”

Brittany’s initial contact was the chamber, which has committed to sponsoring her. She chose its president, Alex Gallego, as her project adviser. “Anything the chamber can do to engage young people to understand business is a win-win for everyone,” he said. “Her project meets the marketing needs of the community.”

Brittany also persuaded others from the chamber to assist her. Jim Perna, a graphic designer and the owner of Oyster Bay’s Long Island Picture Frame and Art Gallery, became her direct mentor. Walter Imperatore, from Renaissance Property Associates, who manages Oyster Bay real estate for owner Charles Wang, directed her on content.

Perhaps some of the hardest moments for her were when she presented her idea to the Girl Scout Council and the chamber’s board. “I’m a shy person,” Brittany said. “I was nervous every time. And I’m bad at presenting, but I think I’ve gotten better at it after doing this.”

The first idea that she presented to the Girl Scout Council was much simpler than the tour. She wanted to create brochure racks, but the idea wasn’t approved. “They thought it was more of a service project — a one-time thing, not a ‘take action’ project, something that fits a need and keeps on giving,” explained Michele. “Although her first idea was simpler, both ideas focused on increasing visitorship in Oyster Bay.”

Ironically, once Brittany began to investigate the different locations to highlight in her brochure, she discovered that many already had racks. “We saw them at Sagamore Hill, the East Norwich Inn and Town Hall,” Michele said. “That’s actually great news, because now we know the vehicle exists for what she’s creating to put into it.”

Brittany said she wasn’t discouraged after her first idea was rejected. She thought about it, and then figured, why not create the actual brochure?

Curious by nature, and interested in being a crime scene investigator someday, she began to explore her community, in search of the best places to include in her tour. In early October, she got to work.

“First, I pictured in my head each historical place and thought about which could be interactive,” she explained. “You can go into all of the places I have in my brochure. My favorite is Sally Townsend’s grave at the Townsend Cemetery.”

She included Christ Church, which Theodore Roosevelt attended. Tourists can see his pew, which sports a plaque bearing the president’s name. The Oyster Bay Post Office is also included, because it has a mural depicting Roosevelt, which Brittany said is quite impressive.

“Ten of the places you can walk to on my tour, and three you need to drive,” she said. “I visited all of the places on the tour, and asked the people who worked there to suggest other places in Oyster Bay to include in my brochure.”

She had her first experience interacting with businesses when she was working toward her Girl Scout Silver Award, which requires 50 hours of work. Before attempting to earn the Gold, a scout must receive the Silver.

“Our troop created ‘Party and Play in Oyster Bay,’” she said. “We set up a babysitting system at restaurants in town, and the restaurants gave people a discount.”

The girls would watch a couple’s children so the adults could experience a date night of sorts. “I did it three times, and after that I wanted to continue doing something for the businesses in Oyster Bay,” Brittany said.

She created 1,500 brochures, which she handed out at the Oyster Festival on Oct. 14 and 15. People were enthusiastic, supporting her idea, she said. Many said they would take a photo of her brochure and post it on social media.

She is now looking for an organization to fund her next printing.

Michele said she was confident that her daughter would continue to move forward. “She wasn’t very assertive initially with her mentors or, well, anyone,” Michele said. “I think she’s gained confidence doing this, and has realized how easy it is to talk to people. Everyone is loving this.”

Gallego continues to be very impressed with Brittany’s idea. “We’re going to use it for sure,” he said. “We’re taking steps to have it on our website, and will use the print version in marketing strategies to hotels and other venues so people will say, ‘Hey, let’s take a trip down to Oyster Bay.’”