Saturday, June 09, 2007

Comments & Commentary by Charles Hill

Recently I read an article written by a well meaning but perhaps delusional member of our great city. Archie Scott still believes that our historic district is much more than a regional draw. Every study done says Main Street is a regional draw. Most of the shop owners know it’s a regional draw, so why does Archie think differently. Well, in my opinion his belief comes from a deep love of what he has helped create and that love has in his mind inflated the importance of St. Charles to others in the world. Another reason is Archie wants to construct a visitor’s center at the Mary’s Rent site at Boones Lick and South Fifth St. Now this isn’t a bad idea except for one fact, you and I will once again foot the bill for another tourist attraction that will be empty more than full.

I am very proud of St. Charles and our history. We are truly a regional draw and we should embrace that fact. Archie would have us all believe that people will actually plan a vacation to St. Charles. To that I say good luck finding enough people who will. The truth is the most historically significant event in our history failed to draw anywhere close to the anticipated crowds. I am speaking of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial that was the brainstorm of Steve Powell (former head of the CVB) and Venetia McEntire. That was a flop and we should learn from it. It demonstrates that we know our history, we are proud of it, but most people really don’t care about what Archie believes to be a draw for vacationers.

This city has stood by and supported the failed belief that we are a major tourist attraction. The promise of throngs of conventioneers purchasing goods and services has not happened with our building of the convention center. I took a walk down Main Street for a month asking people where they were from. None were staying at the Embassy Suites or in town for a convention.

What we have is something visitors can see in a day, enjoy our historic area and go home. Why can’t we be satisfied with what we are and embrace it? Once those in charge figure that out, the city and the residents will get what we deserve for our money. We will get a strategic marketing plan that markets those most likely to visit and make more than one trip in a year.

Archie needs to sit back and be proud with what he and many have built and know that they are bringing joy to those who come. Archie needs to understand that just about every city has a historic area and they all believe theirs is the best. We need to know that our future can’t be based off of one person’s never-ending need to spend tax dollars on a vision that is rose colored.