Dr. Bill Atwood

Tourist season

They’re coming - They’re coming. Yes, the tourists are coming and the summer season is upon us. I know there are a few in the area who complain about the impact of tourists but they seem rather narrow-minded, at best. You even hear the old joke, “If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?”

If we did we would be shooting ourselves in the foot. Economists tell us that they can track tourist dollars in a community such as ours and for each dollar spent by a tourist it generates $12 in the local economy. Twelve to one—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the tourists are good for us and for our local area.

I like to remind you that every one of us is in the tourism industry. I have been a public school teacher in this area for more than 30 years and while tourists don’t directly affect my pay they certainly have in an indirect way.

My students are living here because their parents work in the tourism industry. Donations to our schools come from those very tourism businesses.

The Park Service and the Forest Service personnel are here because of tourism dollars and our roads are cared for by the state in many cases because the tourists travel on those very roads to get to their vacation destinations.

So we all have a role in the tourism game. It is easy to be a friendly and helpful local and it’s equally easy to assist our visitors when they have a need.

Last Saturday Carol and I saw a couple in their fifth wheel trailer and truck on the side of the road and the wife was walking toward Christ Church near ECCO with that “we’re lost look” on her face. We stopped and asked if they needed assistance and they had become lost on their way to the Bass Lake Trailer Resort just above the Pines Village.

In two minutes we had given them directions, led them back down Highway 41 to the Bass Lake turnoff and waved them in the right direction. We will never see those two again, but this area sure could. At least they will feel we are friendly.

If you have an encounter with one of our visitors be sure to represent our area well and offer a few suggestions for things to do or places to eat.

Chances are that they would miss out on a Miller’s Landing burger or Fork’s burger without your telling them about those friendly places. How else could they learn that Oakhurst was the birthplace of Pizza Factory and we have the first of that now world-wide franchise pizza parlor?

Suggest that they pick up a copy of the Sierra Star to find advertisements for places to go and things to do. Tell them about our river walk and our hiking trails and suggest picnics and the lake or in the National Park or National Forests. Remind them of fire restrictions.

Suggest that they swing by the Little Church in the cemetery and to walk around and see the history of those who are now gone but had lived here. There are Civil War veterans buried on that hill in the middle of town.

This year there is a special situation that has developed because of the economy and the multi-year drought. Many of the tourists won’t be coming this year. Bass Lake will have a great many acres of beaches to offer but the water lever is scaring some off.

What can we do? Let’s plan to enjoy “staycations.” That is the word conjured up by someone to identify the idea of staying home and enjoying the comforts of your yard and your area.

If you normally go on a week-long vacation and eat out every meal for that week, take a break from cooking and eat out in one of our many great restaurants for all 21 meals that week.

Take in a movie, visit the lake, go up to Yosemite Valley, attend a performance of melodrama at the Golden Chain, ride “The Logger,” picnic along the side of a creek and spend your tourist’s dollars right here in Madera County.

Think out the math with these numbers. Let’s assume you save the motel fees and spend the rest of your usual vacation budget here and let’s assume you spend $500 for the week. That “staycation” of yours saved you a bundle and generated $6,000 into the coffers of your friends and neighbors.

Think about it - people save all year to visit us in this garden spot and the big question they would ask us is why we would go anywhere else.

So let’s pledge to be great ambassadors of our beautiful Mountain Area to make the tourists enjoy being here, and more so making sure they want to return.

It makes sense - it makes ‘dollars’ as well.