It’s time for San Benito County to fully capitalize on Pinnacles National Park as a way to draw tourists here, open more eyes to local attractions and provide an additional spark for local businesses.
At an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting, the county will consider using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds on a professional marketing campaign that would brand our county as “Home of Pinnacles National Park.”
I am hopeful the majority of supervisors will support this direction and know my colleagues, based on prior discussions at the dais, are equally supportive of doing more to promote our community’s most glaring tourism asset.
That said, I’ve been around long enough to know that although the vast majority of residents feel our community is not doing enough to take advantage of this national park, some people simply don’t like Pinnacles for whatever reason. Those residents also have to understand we can’t continue trying to fix a broken ship—our tourism economy—with the same tools that haven’t worked.
San Benito County already has a series of inherent economic disadvantages. Geographically, we are off the beaten path. Economically, we’re an agriculture-centric community. Logistically, we have limited lodging enterprises, and the list goes on. Still, it’s unreasonable to make the same excuses about our lagging economy if San Benito County isn’t putting forth an aggressive effort to promote this enormous opportunity in our backyard.
Frankly, using a collage approach with tourism branding—which we have traditionally done while trying to promote all the pieces as one puzzle—simply doesn’t work. That’s not to say we don’t have a bevy of great outdoor attractions, picturesque agricultural settings, first-class wineries and wonderful restaurants to tout. We do have all those. But in reality, we need that proverbial anchor store that incentivizes foot traffic.
As I have stated in the past, we were fortunate when former Congressman Sam Farr co-authored a bill with former Sen. Barbara Boxer to designate Pinnacles as a national park in 2013. Since that time, our community has tepidly promoted its elevated stature while Soledad wisely jumped on the opportunity to brand itself as a “Gateway to Pinnacles National Park.”
The bottom line is most of Pinnacles’ signature attractions are accessed through San Benito County with most visitors entering off Highway 25. That means they must drive through Hollister and near surrounding attractions to get there, which can create numerous ancillary benefits to local businesses. Perhaps tourists make a weekend of it while going to the Pinnacles one day and wine tasting in the evenings, or perhaps they notice more of these other enterprises on the way to Pinnacles and come back again for another day trip. What really accentuates the opportunity is the enormous population of potential visitors within driving distance from San Benito County.
Now, just imagine if our county had moved forward nearly a decade ago with the proposed renaming of Highway 25 to Pinnacles National Park Highway. It was a bow-tied, wrapped present from state representatives that found its way into the incinerator after a vocal minority of South County residents spoke out against it. Let’s not continue to squander this opportunity for political reasons. It’s time to tell the world who we are: The Home of Pinnacles National Park.
Supervisor, San Benito County District 2