(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of articles about the assessment of sites on the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway.)
As the largest community along the local scenic byway, Great Bend has some of the better opportunities for development, but it also has some of the challenges to be faced.
Barton County Finance Office Janet Crane reported recently on reports from the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway Internal Marketing Committee to the Barton County Commission and she noted that they show a mix of opportunities for continued growth in the county.
The report documents input about local communities and their potential for growth.
What follows are excepts from those reports.
Strengths — Great Bend offers all “seven slices of the day” providing the full range of infrastructure elements to travelers—food, lodging, entertainment, information. Great Bend has the only paid professional tourism marketing staff in the region, supported with a lodger’s tax. As the largest town on the byway, it provides a nucleus for services; their marketing program complements the other six byway communities. Both the Barton County Historical Society and the Barton County Arts Council have established ties to the byway.
Great Bend does an excellent job of connecting to the wetlands and natural areas, and to marketing the byway experience. They supply a visitor information staff to the Wetlands Education Center, and have installed a songbird habitat on the grounds of the Barton County Courthouse. Hotels offer a GPS Video Tour of the byway to guests, and downtown retail stores and the Barton County Arts Council have developed birdhouse themes. The Raptor Center is completed at the Brit Spaugh Zoo, and offers Byway Exhibits and information.
Challenges — Although the town has not fully capitalized on their inventory of historic buildings, some store owners have begun removing facades to restore the architecture to its original design. Great Bend does not yet have a signature special event.
Opportunities — New way finding signs have made it much easier for travelers to navigate their way around town.
The next phase of the grant for the Raptor Center will add tours that leave from the Raptor Center to travel along the byway.
Another round of free training of certified guides and hosts will increase the level of information and professionalism for front-line staff, both volunteer and paid.