No Carhenge here, but area has many other attractions

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Want to buy a Nebraska icon?

It can be yours, for only $300,000, but it's located in Alliance.

Radio station KCOW said that the Friends of Carhenge board of directors voted to put up for sale the 24-year-old tourist attraction, consisting of a circle of 38 cars approximating England's Stonhenge.

The quirky tourist attraction was built on a whim at a Jim Reinders family reunion in 1987, but soon ran into trouble, both from a zoning board and from others who didn't understand or appreciate the effort.

The site was eventually embraced by tourism officials, however, and has since appeared in several movies. It was donated with 10 acres surrounding it to the Friends organization a few years after it was built.

Now the group says it just doesn't have enough volunteers and money to keep the site in operation.

The price of gasoline and slow economy can't have helped boost visitor numbers, either.

But Carhenge is a good example of a community working with resources at hand when it comes to attracting visitors.

That's a good example for Red Willow County, which recently contracted with a local woman to serve as tourism director, using lodging taxes to support her budget.

No, we don't suggest buying Carhenge, or building some other contrived attraction -- there are at last count at least 14 Stonehenge-type sites around America.

But that doesn't mean we lack resources to help meet her mandate to "put heads in beds."

Located halfway between Lincoln and Denver, Southwest Nebraska has vast, untapped or underutilized attractions that could be exploited more efficiently. Fishing and boating -- especially after Red Willow Dam is repaired and Hugh Butler Lake refilled -- can already attract visitors from far and wide.

Heritage Hills is only one of a number of beautiful, challenging golf courses in the area, and pheasant and deer hunters have abundant opportunity to enjoy their sport in the region.

Agritourism is still mostly an untapped market, and several vineyards are in production with potential for many more. And, we noticed that the Loop Brewing Co., a craft brewery and restaurant in McCook, is advertising for staff.

And, we've always felt that historical sites and museums were under-promoted and under-appreciated.

No, we don't need to build some tacky tourist trap; we already have plenty of quality resources with which to work.

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