"We are trying to bring more awareness to rural areas," said Stacey Brown, the Executive Director of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau at the last WPCVC meeting. "I hope we'll snag them (visitors) as they enter at the state line Visitor's Center and get them on these scenic byways."
The project Brown explained to the WPCVC and more than 20 visitors, including Secretary of State Tom Schedler, was the Boom or Bust Scenic Byways project. This project will allow visitors to pick up a free handheld GPS coordinated device at the Texas/Louisiana state line Visitor's Center that will tell them about the communities they pass on the scenic byways.
"The handheld device looks like and iPhone in a special case," Brown said. "It's GPS activated by certain points along the byway and will tell you about the area and points of interest they may want to see."
The device will also be able to show videos and pictures to give the visitor and idea of what was there and the history of the area. As they travel, visitors will have the option of dropping off the device at designated drop points. There will be no rental fee for the device. People with Andriod phones or iPhones will be able to download the application free of charge.
Brown said only one other byway, the Creole Nature Trail in south Louisiana, has this type of scenic byway technology available.
According to Brown, the SBCTB has gained more than $488,000 for grants on this project for Caddo, Bossier, Claiborne and Webster Parishes.
"With those grants you have to have a match," Brown said. "SBCTB has, up until this point, always provided the entire match even though we only actually cover Caddo and Bossier Parishes."
The original scenic byways ran from the Texas state line to Homer on Highway 2, but new grants changed that route.
"We were recently awarded another grant from the National Scenic Byway Cooperation," Brown said. To get this $265,000 grant, the SBCTB included Monroe and West Monroe on the scenic byways. The SBCTB asked the WPCVC for matching funds on that grant.
"It doesn't have to be an exact match," Brown said. "We are asking for help from all the CVB's this effects."
According to Brown, CVB's in all other effected parishes have currently committed some funds to the project.
"Representative Doerge authored legislation this session to formally name the scenic byway, Highway 2, the 'Boom or Bust Byway'," said Lynn Dorsey, Executive Director of the WPCVB. " Graphics for signage have been developed by the Louisiana Office of Tourism and will be installed in the future. On May 11 and 12, the Louisiana Office of Tourism brought in a professional photographer to shoot photographs along the Boom or Bust Byway for the state website and brochures. We coordinated a shoot with motorcyclists crossing Bayou Dorcheat at the Sikes Ferry Bridge, the Spring Theater in Springhill at night and canoes and kayaks paddling on Bayou Dorcheat.
"We are in the final stages of the development of the interpretive panels for the kiosk in Sarepta. I have received proofs of the panels for the final modifications before they go into production."
Even with all of this underway, Dorsey is unsure if the WPCVC will approve funding to the SBCTB for the project. The commission was unable to form a quorum at their last meeting, so no vote was held.
The WPCVC is in good financial standing, however. Christine Cole with Jamieson, Wise and Martin did a budget and finance review for the WPCVB and determined that no modifications needed to be made to their budget. Last year, they had more than $400,000 in revenue.
According to Kerry Easley, WPCVC President, the WPCVB is down 30 percent in that revenue.
"We are going to start taking a look at some of the festivals and events we help fund," Easley said. "If they aren't bringing in verifiable visitors and tourism to the area with their event, we will slowly start cutting the amount of funding they are granted."
There will be an emergency meeting held to vote on the last commission meeting's agenda items. It was undetermined if the funding for the Boom or Bust Byway project will be on that agenda. Check the Minden Press-Herald for an announcement of when that meeting will be held.