OUR OPINION: Pembina Gorge could be tourism’s next big thing
If North Dakota wants a worthwhile place to spend its Outdoor Heritage money, it need look no further than the Pembina Gorge. Nowhere else could a fresh infusion of money go such a very long way. Here's why: Where tourism is concerned, the Pembin...
If North Dakota wants a worthwhile place to spend its Outdoor Heritage money, it need look no further than the Pembina Gorge.
Nowhere else could a fresh infusion of money go such a very long way.
Here’s why: Where tourism is concerned, the Pembina Gorge is North Dakota’s “low-hanging fruit.” It’s the place where several well-planned projects could accomplish big things, such as notably boosting visitation and dramatically helping the local economy, without coming close to the point of diminishing returns.
That’s because while the Gorge boasts world-class scenery and has all kinds of recreational potential, it’s neither very well-known nor easily accessible for visitors. The opening of the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area in 2012 was a huge step on the road to changing that.
But to this day, internet guides to the area still carry phrases such as “there are no public facilities in the Pembina Gorge” and “the Gorge is a mosaic of private and public lands ... (and) in most instances, the public tracts are inaccessible to vehicular traffic.”
Also to this day, frequent visitors have to get to know this “mosaic of private and public lands,” because some of the most scenic trails cross private lands, and many of those landowners understandably want trail-users to ask.
That makes for a complicated environment in which to promote tourism, as the Walhalla Area Chamber of Commerce and other boosters know.
Complicated - but not impossible. Four directives govern the implementation of the Outdoor Heritage Fund, North Dakota’s new conservation-enhancement program. One of them is to “provide access to private and public lands for sportsmen,” and another is to “conserve natural areas for recreation through the establishment and development of parks and other recreation areas.”
The Pembina Gorge could benefit more from these directives than any other area. Planners should offer ideas and designs with that in mind, because this time, their dreams really could come true.