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Big ideas come from tourism marketing meetings

November 29, 2018

GERING — Good ideas often come from seeing what others do and brainstorming with people who want to make their community better.

At a recent tourism marketing meeting, members of the public came to suggest ideas that could draw people to the area. Brenda Leisy, Scotts Bluff County Tourism director, said many people have good ideas, but the ideas don’t often spread. The marketing meeting is a way for the public to come up with new ideas or how to grow or build on what already exists.

A topic that came up often during the meeting was Platte River Basin Environments (PRBE) lands and the desire for tourists to visit the areas. Many people want to visit, but some issues have come up about what to do about them. Proper trails that are signed were a concern for those in attendance.

Scottsbluff resident Steve Frederick, who has written extensively on the PRBE lands, said governances of each area are dictated by different agencies, which can sometimes make it difficult for a layman to determine whether or not you can hike, hunt, fish, or camp on the lands.

In areas such as Soldier Creek, there are posts in the ground that are painted white so a horseback rider knows which way the trail goes. Frederick suggested staking a rough trail in areas, such as Montz Ranch, where the trails are not well-defined.

Ideas included putting signs on fences about what was allowed in the area. One of the issues that would need to be addressed in areas where camping may be allowed in the future would be the prevention of cutting low branches off trees or cutting down small trees completely. While that may seem like an easy issue to overcome, it is a big reason why there is resistance to making any type of permanent camp sites.

A request that many people in the tourism industry have received is the idea of making a trail from Montz Ranch to Courthouse and Jail Rocks. Jeremiah Gardner said many people who come to events, such as the High Plains Riot, are in the area for the first time and want to experience as much as possible in their free time.

“I don’t think I have to sell what we have,” Gardner said. “Once they get here, they love the area.”

Karla Nieden-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Convention & Visitors Bureau, felt some of the hiking areas were underused because of people’s fear of the unknown and being afraid to venture out to a new location alone. Frederick said if they were set up, he’d be happy to lead some tours of PRBE lands. That way, if someone doesn’t want to hike alone, they’ve got a group they can join.

Suggested ways to accomplish such tasks would be to have local high schools use their community hours to help set up guide posts and signs, donations of wooden posts, getting a Chadron State College survey class to come down and get experience with creating markers and creating safe routes for the people who hike in those areas.

“That would make me feel better,” Leisy said. “I’m scared I’m going to send them somewhere where they get mauled to death by an animal.”

Dave Wolf, of the North Platte NRD, said with the PRBE lands there are some areas people are not supposed to be because of the effect they could have on the habitat.

“With a post, you could control that,” Wolf said. “You could highlight that say down there is a great view but you can’t tell from where you are at.”

With signs, more people might be willing to go alone as well. The issue of money, some of which could be provided by grants, and volunteers is a central one if the Wildlife Manage Areas and PRBE lands are to be used more.

“There are some funding opportunities out there you could use to be able to get it done,” Wolf said. “It’s a matter of volunteers and asking people to get out and do it.”

If you are interested in volunteering to make this, or any other idea come to fruition, contact Brenda Leisy at 308-633-1808 to learn how to organize and make it happen.

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