Editorial: Pinnacles deserves a lot more attention from local leaders

Park Superintendent Karen Bepler-Dorn, U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Congressman Sam Farr are shown at the ceremony dedicating Pinnacles as a national park. That ceremony was in February 2013.

All too often in this county, people and groups are in it for themselves on matters of major significance to the rest of the community. All too often, selfishness trumps progress to the masses.
A long-glaring example is Pinnacles National Park. Because many decision makers and other influential residents tend to forget that the economic behemoth exists or wish it would go away altogether, the county and its business sector have failed when it comes to capitalizing on an opportunity of a lifetime.
Part of the problem is that Pinnacles is somewhat isolated from everyday life 30 miles away from the county seat, Hollister. The biggest hitch related to devising a marketing plan, however, is that political leaders for decades have collectively scoffed toward the attraction. That mere attraction – 26,000 acres of mountain and stream hikes, majestic views, diverse wildlife, an abundance of endangered species, bat caves, climbing opportunities and many educational possibilities – may have passed over the heads of local leaders for all these years. It did, however, get serious attention from Congressman Sam Farr, the U.S. Congress and President Obama when it advanced from monument status more than 13 months ago and became the 59th national park in U.S. history. There are just 59 of these family vacation magnets in the entire nation, and one of them – the newest one – is sitting, ripe for the taking, in our back yard.
What has been accomplished locally over the past 13 months to capitalize on winning the tourism lottery? After an idea gained initial momentum – to simply rename Airline Highway as Pinnacles National Park Highway – an influential minority in the South County area convinced their supervisor, Jerry Muenzer, to lead the proposal toward demise. It epitomized this county’s trouble as a whole gaining any meaningful progress and set the tone for the past 13 months of doing almost nothing to promote the new national park – a national park that drew more than 300,000 visitors in 2013.
Thirteen months have gone by, but it isn’t too late to devise and execute a plan. Start with the basic marketing elements for a national park and move from the ground up.
Start with signs and a relatively comprehensive sign plan. Business and government leaders must look into options for billboards. Of all the marketing tools you would expect to see on the way to a national park, it’s a billboard, perhaps themed with cartoonish characters (Connie Condor, Barry Bat?) guiding riders to the park.
What about marketing to outsiders? Where is that plan and who is organizing it? Where is the website that links Pinnacles to local businesses and the shops that outsiders might want to patronize on their way to the national park? A website like that would not only promote Pinnacles and draw outside visitors, but it would also offer an advertising platform for the very businesses wanting to capture those tourists.
As for the drive to Pinnacles, county leaders must underscore in their marketing that the drive along Highway 25 toward the east entrance is by far the most majestic route to the attraction. It offers a taste of Old California and takes tourists to the more scenic, eastern portion of the park, as opposed to driving along a much more tedious Highway 101 through Soledad, a prison town.
County leaders must change their tainted views of Pinnacles, take pride in the national park and do what is best for the county’s vast majority – by implementing a thoughtful plan to capitalize on the not-so-hidden treasure in our economically troubled community.

Leave your comments