Saturday, October 16, 2010

Guest Blogger - Sutherland Courier Times

The editor and publisher of the Sutherland Courier-Times recently wrote a column including some great points about local tourism. I think it will make an excellent guest-blogging post.

Some years back, a large bus load of tourism counselors came through our area to learn about interesting sites in Western Nebraska. A couple of us locals were on the bus with them while they were here, to help them find some of the points of interest.

When we reached the Mormon Trail ruts north of Sutherland, we told the bus drive to ‘pull over here.’ He pulled all four wheels of the large bus off the paved road onto the sandy shoulder. About two hours later we were rescued by Al Boggs of Al’s Towing in Hershey, as he used his largest truck to wedge us out of the sand.

Meanwhile, the tourism counselors had a great chance to get out and walk part of the North River Road, walk up the hill and look at the wagon ruts, and cross the historic North River Bridge. They also got a first-hand lesson on the nature of the Sandhills, just as the Mormons on the trail had so many years ago. The same sandy hills that wouldn’t support the weight of a loaded wagon wouldn’t support the weight of a bus, either.

Later, some of the counselors mailed notes to us saying things like, “I’m stuck on Sutherland.” Despite the inconvenience, they seemed to enjoy the experience.

At last week’s Lincoln County Comprehensive Plan listening sessions, I am told that there was a good response in Hershey Tuesday morning – and a good response Wednesday night in Sutherland. Part of the discussion in Sutherland was about tourism.

While facilities such as the Golden Spike are popular draws, local tourism opportunities don’t have to include the expense of new buildings in order to be successful.

Railroad tourism has been active for probably as long as anyone can remember, because lots of people all over the world like trains.

History tourism has brought people from across the United States who stopped in our local towns while following the Mormon Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Pony Express.

Hunting packages, another form of tourism, have also brought people into our area from across the nation.

A newer form of tourism that was briefly discussed at the Sutherland meeting is Agri-Tourism. Farm tours and farm vacations bring people who are happy to help you do your farm chores and spend some time outside. Feeding the cows or chickens, gathering the eggs, milking the cows, bottle feeding calves or lambs, and riding in a combine can be a lot of fun for someone who has never been exposed to what we have all around us.

Whatever the form, tourism can bring people into the area who purchase fuel and lodging and eat at our local restaurants.

I once heard a community leader say, “We’re all just trading around the same dollars, and there are only so many dollars to go around.” Tourism is one small way to bring some additional dollars into the local economy.

Likewise, our spending habits also have a direct impact on the local economy. If we purchase everything somewhere else, then we have no right to complain about the lack of local businesses. I haven’t been able to research Hershey and Paxton, but there is a long list of businesses that used to operate in Sutherland. “Use it or lose it,” has long been a phrase describing the need for exercise to keep our body healthy. Perhaps the same phrase can also describe a healthy local economy.

I submit to you today that one of our best moves in making a better community may be to ‘pull over here.'

True words. Infusing tourist dollars throughout our community IS economic development and will result in a better quality of life for everyone - those enjoying their visit to our community and those who live here.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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