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Scenic byways promoted as direct impacts on tourism

The Lake Country Scenic Byway and Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway economic impact study were discussed at a workshop featured at the National Scenic Byway conference recently held in Minneapolis.

"Byways are of extreme interest to people and are used every year," said Park Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Katie Magozzi and representative of the Lake Country Scenic Byway.

Representatives from the byway, along with University of Minnesota staff, spoke to a full room of interested representatives from byways throughout the nation.

Magozzi was unable to attend the conference but said she and other byway representatives have been working on getting new interpretive signs in the area.

The bronze markers will have information on the Jefferson Highway, the Heartland Trail and a sawmill.

"We're hoping the signs can be up this fall," she said.

Byways have a huge impact on tourism and are also important for local people to use, she said.

Those attending the session expressed their interest in the Minnesota work and how the byway overcame challenges in obtaining data necessary for the evaluation. Issues related to staffing and technical knowledge to obtain and analyze data were among the top challenges facing byways in conducting such research.

Furthermore, workshop participants wanted to know how the results could be used to market the byway, and provide greater awareness of scenic byways and their value to communities.

"Putting this information in its proper context is most important in telling the story about the value byways can provide," said Linda Ulland, Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway vice chair. Added University of Minnesota economist Brigid Tuck, "It is harder to understand the value of the indirect impacts so it may be of greater value to only identify the direct impacts."

Evaluating the economic value a byway has on local communities has been of interest to byways nationally for some time. The national byway resource center has worked with consultants to develop a tool that byways can use to analyze the extent to which byway designation affects the economy of the area. 

A session prior to the Minnesota workshop discussed those efforts. But it was the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway that took the lead in developing and implementing its own analysis, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Tourism Center and Center for Community Vitality. Byway volunteers conducted surveys of residents and visitors to obtain information that was used in the analysis.

The work was made possible with funding from Explore Minnesota Tourism, the Carlson Chair for Travel and Tourism, and the University of Minnesota Central Regional Partnership.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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