Visiting local attractions Tourism relatively steady on Hi-Line
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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
While reports statewide are unsure, at this point, how much the tourism industry has been impacted by the recession, representatives of most local attractions say they are seeing the same or slightly more visitors this year. We've been busy, it's just steady ,” said Jude Sheppard, curator of the Blaine County Museum. “I am pleased. I thought it would be a slower year because of the economy.” Re p o r t s a c r o s s Montana are mixed. The Associated Press reports that 7 percent fewer hotel and motel rooms were rented in the first half of 2009 compared to 2008, although use of campgrounds such as KOA facilities seem to be up. D e b b i e Va n d e b e r g , executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Comme rc e, s a i d she received information from area hotels and motels that indicates they are having about the same rate of travelers as the tourist attractions. Vandeberg said representatives of the local hotels she has heard from are saying things are just starting to pick up for them, and stays at the businesses in the last month or so seem about the same as last year. “The Chamber office is seeing what seems to be our share of visitors to the area,” she added. “The Canadian visitor is still come down to enjoy our area and many are going onto Glacier. We have lots of requests for camping facilities.” Not all area attractions are seeing a good year. Gary Wilson, president of the Fort Assinniboine Preservation Association, said tours at the fort south of Havre are probaBly in their second-worst year. Only 1992 saw fewer visitors, he said. “At first I thought it as probably because (visitation at) Glacier was down, but Glacier isn't down,” he said. Wilson theorized that people are cutting into expenses, and that is why scheduled tours of Assinniboine are down. “Now I think people are still traveling, but they are more frugal,” he said. Visitation seems heavy on Montanans making trips in state, rather than long-distance travelers, although foreign nationals also are visiting local sites. “We have seen a lot more l o c a l p e o p l e a n d mo r e Canadians than we have in the past, but we're still getting people from around the world,” said Christy Owens, office manager of Havre Beneath the Streets and the Frank DeRosa Railroad Museum. Owens said numbers at those sites are up some in June the site saw 1,413 visitors, up 116 from 2008, and in July saw 1,754, up 275 visitors. By We dne s d ay, Hav r e Beneath the Streets already had had 500 visitors for August, she added. “It's a nice start. Hopefully we can keep that up,” Owens said. Anna Brumley, manager of the Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump archaeological site behind the Holiday Village Mall, said that site's visitation also is up slightly. She said the site has seen about 1,000 visitors so far, up about 275 from this point last year. The site picked up in May with about 340 visitors Brumley said that includes area schoolchildren who come to special stone-boiling demonstrations at Wahkpa Chu'gn and saw 255 visitors in June and 211 in July. Sheppard said the visitors at the Blaine County Museum have been a mixture of types. More single visitors and couples seem to be touring, rather than as many families. She added that many groups are grandparents taking grandchildren on the state's Dinosaur Trail, which includes the Blaine County Museum, Havre's H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum and the museum in Rudyard. She added that groups of Lutherans who are coming from states back east to do work at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation also have been regular visitors. “That helps our count when you have big groups like that,” she said. The Blaine County Museum's numbers are up about 535 with a count of 3,091 visi tors, Sheppard said, although visitors during the all-class reunion in July may have inflated that number. The visitors also are interested in the newly opened Wildlife Museum and the Bear Paw Bat t lef ield south of Chinook, she added. S e a s o n a l Ra n ge r J im Magera said he doesn't have figures for how many people h ave v i s i t e d Be a r Paw Battlefield Ranger Stephanie Martin, who was not available, had those numbers but that the visitation seems steady with last year. That includes the fact that the site, where Chief Joseph the Younger of the Nez Perce surrendered to the U.S. Cavalry in 1877, is a little out-of-the-way, Magera added. “Our place is pretty special. You have to go 32 miles off the road,” he said. He said there do seem to be fewer people making long trips, although foreign travelers from locations like Germany, France and Great Britain are coming as they do every year. “There seem to be a lot more Montana people, maybe making shorter trips,” he said. Cheryl Gilbert, manager of the Clack Museum, said many visitors to the Havre museum don't say from where they come, but there seem to be more Montanans there as well. We're averaging just slightly above normal,” she said, saying July saw 969 last year and 980 this year. “In August we average 1,000, and we're already at 460,” she said.