Rock Springs, WY Visitors' Center
PHOTO CREDIT: Brian McCord
With its dramatically beautiful landscapes and wealth of amenities and activities, Sweetwater County, Wyoming, has long been a mecca for tourists, as well as a great place to live. The only problem: how to find all those good things in the area’s sprawling communities.
Now, thanks to smart planning and partnerships between business and government, Sweetwater County is becoming friendlier and more accessible to its thousands of tourists, and locals are benefitting, too.
Green River Visitors Welcome
Following years of planning, a striking new Visitors Center opened in Green River in 2011. A joint effort by the Green River Chamber of Commerce and the city of Green River, the $750,000 center is home to the chamber, which also operates the visitors center. The attractive stone and stucco building greets tourists as they exit the interstate, and offers them a wealth of information, maps, friendly advice and an unparalleled view that echoes a Thomas Moran painting of the Palisades and Tollgate Rock.
“We thought, ‘If we put a building in an atrractive location, they will come’ – and they have,” says Janet Hartford, executive director of the Green River Chamber. “In July 2010, we had 608 people come through our office. In July 2011, we had 2,100 people.”
Besides offering information, the center also boasts a mini-museum of sorts. Under its beamed ceiling, visitors can gaze at a 116-pound stuffed wolf, get their photos taken sitting in a Western saddle, touch and explore artifacts such as elk and deer hides, antlers and fossils, or just gaze at the 360-degree panoramic view of the Kildeer Wetlands, the bluffs and the river corridor.
Outside, they can meet Butch and Sundance, two yearling mustang colts who are part of the chamber’s partnership with the federal Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro adoption program. Green River is also making the area’s many bike trails easier to use, coordinating efforts with major landowners, adding signage, and producing maps and informative brochures.
Finding the Way in Rock Springs
In Rock Springs, visitors and residents are both finding their way around much more easily as the first phase of an ambitious way-finding project is completed.
“Our community is not on a grid, and it can be very difficult to find things since we are so spread out,” says Dave Hanks CEO of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce. “We have great facilities and amenities for a city this size, and with the number of people visiting here and moving here, it’s important that people be able to find them.”
A 2007 branding study determined that a way-finding system was a top priority, as well as informational kiosks and gateway signage at the entrances to town. A committee decided on 24 key locations.
“Basically, we looked at the key things any city would have – city hall, the police department, museums, city parks, libraries – and then things tourists would be interested in, such as the wild horse loop, the petrogliphs and the sand dunes,” says Jenissa Bartlett, executive director of Sweetwater Travel & Tourism.
The $270,000 initial phase, which includes 300 signs, will be completed in spring 2012. The entire six-phase project, Bartlett says, may be completed in three to five years.
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