Advertising by Havre tourist sites limited
by shortage of funds
By Tim Leeds
Millions of additional tourists are expected to come to Montana during the celebration of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. In fact some are already making the trip.
"We had about three or four campers so far that have gone through that said they wanted to get an early start on Lewis and Clark," Mandy Hansen said.
Hansen, who owns and operates Havre Family Campgrounds east of Havre with her husband, Paul Hansen, said people from New York, Minnesota and other areas have come through on the Lewis and Clark Trail and stayed at their site. The tourists said they want to beat the rush and enjoy the trip with their families.
The actual anniversary of the trip is 2003-2006. In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson charged Capt. Meriweather Lewis and Lt. William Clark and the Corps of Discovery with exploring the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, which more than doubled the size of the United States. The journey to explore the purchase, running from Washington, D.C., to the Oregon coast and back, lasted until 1806.
The number of additional tourists who will come to Montana during the bicentennial is unknown. The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana has conducted surveys that estimate between 4 million and 8 million tourists might come to the state in addition to the normal tourist trade.
Traveling to Havre along U.S. Highway 2, then turning south on U.S. Highway 87 toward Fort Benton and Great Falls is an official route on the Lewis and Clark Trail. Thale Dillon of the tourism institute said she expects that many of the tourists will pass through Havre to go to the Lewis and Clark sites, especially on their way to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, and that Havre could benefit from the traffic.
"I think the additional tourism Havre gets is what you provide for them," she said.
Hansen said she tries to promote Havre's attractions to people who stay at her campground, attractions like the Wahkpa Chu'gn bison kill site, Fort Assinniboine, the Heritage Center and Havre Beneath the Streets and the Railroad Museum. She said Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, has been very helpful, providing information, brochures, pamphlets and the like.
Hansen said that after she gave information about Havre attractions to members of one group of the Lewis and Clark tourists, they changed their plans from spending one day in Havre to spending three days.
Vandeberg said the chamber is already working on promotions for the bicentennial. She said most of the activities are planned for 2005, the anniversary of the year the expedition was in Montana. Most are in the planning stages, she said, but the chamber board has voted to move the annual Havre Festival Days from its usual time in September to July to capitalize on the increased tourism during that part of the season. Additional events are planned with a Lewis and Clark theme for Festival Days that year.
The dates for 2005 Festival Days have been submitted to the state Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission's calendar of events, Vandeberg said.
Shauna Albrecht, who co-chairs the chamber's tourism committee with Clarence Hennings, said the chamber has received so many ideas for things to do during the bicentennial it has to select what it will really be able to do.
"We have lists and lists of ideas we want to do. We just have to narrow it down to what will actually work," she said.
Representatives of local attractions, such as Gary Wilson of Fort Assinniboine and Anna Brumley for Wahkpa Chu'gn, said they don't have enough money to do additional advertising for the bicentennial. Brumley said improvements are being made to Wahkpa Chug'n, such as paving a path and putting new stairs in, to make it more attractive to visitors.
North-central Montana already has advertising for local attractions. Havre's sites and regional attractions like the Bear Paw Battlefield and Blaine County Museum, the Big Sandy Museum and the Rudyard Museum are listed in several sections of the Russell Country 2001 Travel Planner, as are some local services and available lodging. The Havre chamber's Web site also lists attractions in the area, as does the state's Travel Montana Web site.
Victor Bjornberg of state agency Travel Montana said part of its goal to attract tourists to the state includes showing Montana as part of the Lewis and Clark experience.
"We want to make people aware that Montana played a big part of Lewis and Clark and that there's a lot to be done here," he said.
Bjornberg said people traveling for the bicentennial are likely to be cultural tourists, interested in learning the history and heritage of the country. He said they would be likely to be interested in area attractions like Bear Paw Battlefield and Havre Beneath the Streets as well as visiting Lewis and Clark sites.
Clint Blackwood, executive director of the Montana Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission, said the number of additional tourists coming is unknown. He said the state commission has not made a prediction yet, and will probably conduct a new study in 2002 to estimate numbers.
"No matter what we do, there is a potential for an area to have a significant increase in visitation compared to what we're used to," he said.
Increased tourism for the bicentennial was one of the issues addressed at a press conference in Great Falls on Tuesday. The conference was held to discuss U.S. House Resolution 2411, the "National Monument Fairness Act," which proposes amendments to the Antiquities Act. Representatives of the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument say the bill would be used to rescind the monument status of the Breaks. Dr. Stephen Ambrose was one of the speakers at the conference.
Ambrose is the author of "Undaunted Courage," a book about the voyage of Lewis and Clark. His son, Hugh Ambrose, said Ambrose has been trying to raise awareness about the number of visitors likely to come to the state. Since the publication of "Undaunted Courage," his office has received many communications from people asking about the bicentennial.
"We've been at the center of the storm since this began," Hugh Ambrose said. "We know these people are coming."
Ambrose said a lot has been accomplished since his father's work to raise awareness began.
"There are lots of hopeful signs. It's being done. People are starting to think where are these people going to park what is overload, what is too many," he said.
Ambrose said one of their concerns is that people will avoid events in the celebration if they think there will be a mob, such as if 10,000 come to the Gates of the Mountains on the anniversary of the day Lewis named them. He said a reputation for mob scenes like that could also reduce future tourism for the state.
Kim Prill of the federal Bureau of Land Management office in Billings is conducting work to try to prepare the state for increased visitation.
She said areas managed by BLM are already seeing increased usage that can be attributed to Lewis and Clark.
Prill said a key to managing the increase in tourists will not only be in preparing areas they will come to, but also in spreading them throughout the state in different areas throughout the four years of the bicentennial.