Monday, February 05, 2001

Ohio heritage corridor suggested


Older tourists target audience

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The little Springboro Historical Society Museum at 110 S. Main St. isn't exactly a tourist magnet, even though it contains artifacts from Springboro's Underground Railroad.

        But if plans succeed, the museum — and everything from festivals to historic sites in Warren County — could become busier, bringing more revenues to local communities.

        Groups from Franklin, Lebanon, Waynesville and Springboro seek to create the Ohio Heritage Corridor, which would cater to older adults who have time to travel.

        Similar efforts started last year in other parts of Ohio.

        “There is a new type of tourism — older adults who travel for history and entertainment,” said Wilma Grace, director of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce. “This is a very forceful group, the kind we need to help our tourism industry and economy.”

        Local chambers of commerce and community groups plan to ask the Ohio Department of Tourism for a grant to start the program, which could be the first in Southwest Ohio.

        “We feel we have a natural triangle among the four towns,” she said. “Each has something different to bring to the table. Waynesville and Lebanon have developed retail centers. Springboro has a rich history as an Underground Railroad Center.

        “We have so much to offer. We have the Scenic Byway, Fort Ancient, small towns. We could offer structured tours. Also, Lebanon has a good genealogical center. ... People are traveling to research their roots. Visitors stay for several days.”

        Don Ross, former Springboro council member and officer in the historical society, sees the plan as a potential economic boon.

        “We all exist independently and therefore can't make much of an impact,” he said of the towns. “We had 3,000 visitors to the museum last year, which isn't bad. But by putting our efforts together, I think we — and everybody else — can do better.”

        Waynesville, the so-called “Antiques Capital of the Midwest,” figures prominently in the plan. “This project has the potential to be a huge economic development benefit to the Waynesville area,” said Village Manager R. Kevin Harper.

        The Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which came up with the idea, will coordinate the plan. The group is working with the Cincinnati Visitors and Convention Bureau to eventually expand the project, in some capacity, throughout the region.

        “Baby boomers have seen the glamour and now they want something real,” said Margaret Drexel, of Warren County's visitors bureau. “They have money to spend. They want a place to take the grandkids or just to have a good time.

        “Obviously, (Paramount's) Kings Island and the Beach are a big part of our tourism, but they aren't the only draw. This (cultural tourism) is a national trend. With the Shaker culture, the festival, the Underground Railroad, we have plenty to see.”

        Tourism is a huge industry in Warren County. Last year, visitors spent nearly half a billion dollars in the county, despite disappointing attendance at Kings Island and the Beach.

2000 HIGHLIGHTS

               • 6 million visitors to Warren County spent $463 million.

        • 300,000 people visited the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville — a 50 percent increase over 1999.

        • 69,000 people visited Caesar Creek Visitors Center — an 83 percent increase.

        Source: Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau
       

       



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