(WASHINGTON) - A Tourism Trail Development Grant recently awarded to the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau will fund a tourism project designed to draw history buffs, in particular, to the county.
Andrea McCann, of the Washington Times-Herald reports, the $9,000 matching-funds grant was awarded by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.
"The economic development foundation and visitors bureau provided match monies, so in total we'll have $18,000," said Samantha Bobbitt, executive director of the chamber and visitors bureau. "The name of our trail is Daviess County Historic Geocache Trail. The idea of it is to create a geocache trail to highlight historic sites and create another way to draw people to the community."
She pointed out that the purpose of tourism is to draw people in from outside the county to spend money and learn about the county. Bobbitt said one comment heard at Washington Mayor Joe Wellman's recent listening sessions was that Daviess County needs something besides the Amish culture to encourage tourism.
She said emphasizing the county's history with the trail grant is a way to target another group of tourists and also to spotlight different areas within the county.
In addition, the geocaching angle itself could attract yet another demographic.
Bobbitt described geocaching as a high-tech scavenger hunt. GPS coordinates are used to find different places, and geocachers log in to show they found the site. However, the activity is not limited to techies; anyone can go online and get information to try to locate the geocache sites.
"There will be a sign at each site that has a phone number they can call to hear information about that site," she said.
For those with smart phones, there will be a QR, or quick response, code to scan so they can listen to an mp3 about the site.
"Right now we have 20 sites identified and hope to grow to 40 in a year," Bobbitt said.
The first 20 sites are the Prairie Creek archeology site, Eli McCarty Civil War grave, Mimi's House, the Wratten murder site, the Wabash & Erie Canal, Wright Airport, Dillinger-High Rock, Reeve Township slave cemetery, town of Steven, George Rogers Clark-related site, Ham Dillon murder site, Indiana Gothic Story, cornfield conference, Ohio & Baltimore Railroad site, Washington fort/stagecoach site, New London, the round barn, Sandy Hook mass grave, Corning Irish Settlement/Church, and St. Peters Catholic Church - believed to be the original site of Notre Dame.
Each site will have a geocache box with a log book inside so people can sign it to show they've been there, Bobbitt explained. The log book also will be available on the website geocaching.com, where she said geocachers can go online and keep track of sites they've found.
"There will be prizes associated with six, 12 and 20 sites," Bobbitt said, adding that some will be only for people from outside the county. "Eventually we want to have swag (prizes) available at each site - something that's trackable to the website."
By tracking website hits and offering buy-one-get-one-free nights at local hotels, for example, the chamber and visitors bureau can gauge the effectiveness of the tourism campaign.
She said the project will be an 18-month-long process, but the hope is to have the trail up and going within the first three months.
"In October we're having a geocaching event based off haunted sites," Bobbitt said. "We hope to bring people into the area based upon that and have prizes and contests going on based upon that."
She there are already more than 700 geocache sites in Daviess County, most of which are well hidden.
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