It’s time for San Benito County to take full advantage of Pinnacles National Park as a way to attract tourists here, open more eyes to local attractions, and provide an extra spark for local businesses.
At an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting, the county will consider using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act on a professional marketing campaign that would brand our county “Home of Pinnacles National Park.”
I am hopeful that most supervisors will support this direction and know that my colleagues, based on previous discussions on the stage, also support doing more to promote our community’s most obvious tourism asset.
That said, I’ve been around long enough to know that while the vast majority of residents feel that our community isn’t doing enough to take advantage of this national park, some people just don’t like Pinnacles for whatever reason. Those residents also need to understand that we can’t keep trying to fix a broken ship, our tourism economy, with the same tools that haven’t worked.
San Benito County already has a number of inherent economic disadvantages. Geographically, we are off the beaten path. Economically, we are a community focused on agriculture. Logistically, we have limited hosting companies, and the list goes on. Still, it’s not reasonable to make the same excuses about our lagging economy if San Benito County isn’t making an aggressive effort to promote this tremendous opportunity in our backyard.
Frankly, using a collage approach with tourism branding, which we have traditionally done by trying to promote all the pieces as a single puzzle, just doesn’t work. That’s not to say we don’t have a bevy of great outdoor attractions, picturesque farm settings, world-class wineries, and wonderful restaurants to promote. We have all of those. But really, we need that proverbial anchor store that incentivizes foot traffic.
As I said earlier, we got lucky when former Congressman Sam Farr co-authored a bill with former Senator Barbara Boxer to designate Pinnacles as a national park in 2013. Since then, our community has tepidly promoted its towering stature while Soledad wisely seized the opportunity to brand itself as a “Gateway to Pinnacles National Park”.
The bottom line is that most of the exclusive Pinnacles attractions are accessed through San Benito County and most visitors enter via Highway 25. That means they must drive through Hollister and near surrounding attractions to getting there, which can generate numerous additional benefits for local businesses. Perhaps tourists make a weekend of it while going to Pinnacles one day and wine tasting in the evenings, or perhaps they notice more of these other businesses on the way to Pinnacles and come back for another day trip. What really adds to the opportunity is the huge population of potential visitors within easy reach of San Benito County.
Now imagine if our county had moved forward almost a decade ago with the proposed renaming of Highway 25 to Pinnacles National Park Highway. It was a ribbon-wrapped gift from state representatives that arrived at the incinerator after a vocal minority of South County residents spoke out against it. Let us not continue to waste 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