THE LAWSON’S PEAK BOOKS

Build It

There has been, as there usually is, talk about tourism during the elections in the city coming up later this month.

Though on the campaign trail there is talk of tourism enhancement, I can recall only a few serious talks with serious decisions about tourism at city council meetings.

In short: The city needs an annual budget for tourism, and that budget should be for capital outlay and advertising. Certainly the city’s development office is doing a bang-up job, but the mayor and council need to budget funds for brick-and-mortar projects.

We desperately are in need of signage. A lady came into the office here just last week asking what there is to see and do in Franklin. I referred her to the city development office and the Cajun Coast tourist office off the highway. I don’t know where she went, but I do know she was indicative of our problem.

The tourism effort needs bigger and more readable signage, and listen, I ain’t talking about those little blue or green highway placards. I mean billboards, big ones, like you see all the time on the highways: big, colorful, splashy billboards pumping up your community, luring people off the highway and into town. You don’t even know Franklin’s back there behind the trees if you’re passing on 90 from either direction. We seem to be expecting potential tourists to be psychic or something.

Imagine it:

Visit Historic Downtown

Franklin!

Celebrating Spring with the Bayou Teche Black Bear and Birding Festival!

Celebrating Autumn Bounty with the Harvest Moon Festival!

Antebellum homes and 400+

registered historic properties!

Scenic bayou side parkway!

Visit the National Wildlife Refuge for the Louisiana Black Bear!

Tour historic Grevemberg House Museum!

Etc. etc. etc.!

Next exit!

There needs to be a kiosk of some sort at both ends of town…one in the Northwest Boulevard area, another coming into town from the Garden City exit. At these kiosks, there should be a map of the city with points of interest; there should be brochures of attractions; the locations of the tourist office, city hall and the chamber office should be clearly marked.

Its so simple and in the grand scheme of things not all that expensive. The rewards could be substantial.

I know these guys go out of St. Mary Parish sometimes. They have to see what other communities are doing to bring visitors into their part of the world. We can do it, too.

If the folks running for office right now are serious about tourism, they need to put up the funds to make it happen. Let me repeat: The staff is doing a bang-up job, but I am certain they could do a helluva lot more with a serious follow-up on campaign promises by actually funding tourism development in the city in the form of capital improvements. You’re either serious about it, or you aren’t.

Repeatedly through the last forum I heard that infrastructure – water, sewer, streets – must be rehabilitated not only for our citizens, but to attract business and industry. Right as rain!

But our tourism infrastructure needs to be rehabilitated too, and it won’t cost millions upon millions of dollars to do it. We need to start looking at tourism not only as a facet, but the major component, of economic development in this city, and fund it accordingly.

The city needs to partner with the parish and demand development of tourism-based enhancement. They do it over there. East. That multi-million dollar golf course was a tourism decision. We can do better than that with less.

The city needs to take many big ads – BIG ads – in state and regional magazines that promote tourism. There’s no better way to get the word out about who we are and what we have to offer. Advertising is crucial. Advertise our events, our self-guided tours, our best characteristics.

There needs to be a facility catering to paddlers. Paddlers love this area, and for good reason. Yet we have nothing to accommodate them.

It’s all right here, right in front of our noses, we just must have the budget to develop it.

People, there’s no BMW plant coming to Franklin. Get over it. We may get some smaller businesses in the industrial park, along the Northwest Boulevard area, and that’s fantastic! But this other opportunity is right under our noses, and day after day, month after month, year after year, we continue to pay it little heed. It needs to be funded. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Oh, so trite to say, but here goes: If you build it, they will come.

So, candidates, is tourism a major priority in your campaign, or is it just lip service?

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