Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Rural tourism shows off agriculture, natural beauty

Summer is nearly upon us, making the air ripe for tourism, but what will drive tourists to your rural community? Tourism has the potential to stimulate rural economies, create additional jobs, and showcase the wonders, diversity and beauty of rural communities. (Tourists walk in a rural landscape in a photo by Turismo Rural)

"One travel trend in tourism these days is outdoor activities and going to rural areas," Keystone Heights, Fla., Mayor Mary Lou Hildreth told the Bradford County Telegraph. "People want to ride in the country and find quaint, out-of-the-way places." Hildreth recently attended the Enterprise Florida conference where she participated in several segments on rural tourism. "Along with a miniature canoe paddle, some plastic alligator beads and mounds of printed materials, the mayor also brought back ideas for making Keystone Heights more attractive to a potential tourist dollar," James Williams writes for the Telegraph. "Areas designated as 'rural areas of critical economic concern' qualify for more funds such as grants and other public investments through the Rural Economic Development Initiative. That would include funds for rural and eco-tourism."

A busload of diverse individuals toured northeast Solano County, Calif., allowing participants to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of local agriculture. The Solano County Agriculture Advisory Committee sponsored the Savor Solano field trip, which "took riders on a tour of rural Vacaville, Dixon and Winters, and showed off some of the region's most relied-upon ag industrial processing plants," writes Danny Bernardini for The Reporter. "After meandering through the back roads, the tour stopped at two of the area's processing plants. Superior Farms, the sole lamb processing plant on the west coast, and Campbell's Soup Co. both had short presentations for the group."

Solano County is not the only community taking steps toward enhancing rural tourism opportunities. "Chambers County [Texas] has the potential to grow into a nature- and agri-tourism powerhouse if it takes steps to protect its natural resources today, according to a national nonprofit conservation organization," Amy Condon writes for The Progress. "Organized by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), experts - in farmers markets, wildlife and nature tourism, corporate habitat conservation, and conservation funding - spent last week meeting with Chambers residents, businesses, and farmers and ranchers in workshops to explore strategies to address a series of questions raised through TPL's Chambers County Greenprint for Growth process."

Chambers is the first Rural County Demonstration Project in Texas undertaken by TPL. The Chambers County Greenprint goals include: maintaining rural character and creating more public access for nature-based recreation. "Part of the Greenprint process involved last week's Strategy Exchange to answer questions that cannot be addressed through mapping but help achieve the Greenprint's overall goals." The Strategy Exchange generated a series of recommended actions, including "diversifying agricultural and tourism activities for sustainable economic development, constructing an inventory of existing nature-based tourism opportunities" and "providing resources to landowners interests in creating nature-based experiences." A grant from the Coastal Coordination Council primarily funded the Chambers County Greenprint for Growth and Conservation Project. To learn more about it, contact Linda Shead. For more information on promoting tourism in rural America visit the National Agricultural Library Rural Information Center.

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