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Tourism campaign targets Lincoln County

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| March 31, 2009 12:00 AM

The Kootenai River, the Rocky Mountains, over 2 million acres of national forest and a variety of wildlife make northwestern Montana a unique region, but that alone doesn’t attract crowds of tourists.

A new federal and state-funded marketing campaign may help Lincoln County reach its potential as a tourist destination. The area will be included in the campaign’s list of “Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies.”

Funded by the National Scenic Byways program and state tourism offices, the project’s mission is to attract travelers to the four-state, two-province northwest region through a targeted, mostly web-based public relations campaign.

“I think it is a prime opportunity, that we don’t want to miss out on, for free advertising for our region,” said Alana Mesenbrink, Lincoln County Tourism board member and Libby Dam park ranger. “They already have the funding for it. All we have to do is send them the information, and they do all the work.”

Two national marketing firms and a number of local partners held a fly-by meeting at Libby Dam’s visitor center last month to brief locals on its mission and to request information on what the area has to offer domestic and international travelers.

Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Turner Mountain, Kootenai Aviation, Cabinet View Country Club and Lincoln County Tourism shared their ideas with the marketing team.

“They wanted to meet everybody and have us send them all the information, any pictures or video, that we could gather to add to help create this website,” Mesenbrink said.

A website showcasing three “All-American Roads in the Northern Rockies,” their adjacent national parks and national historic trails that connect them, will be the centerpiece of the marketing campaign. The campaign will also launch related events, send out press releases and develop a brochure-like driving map.

Lincoln County will be incorporated in the David Thompson Historic Route – named for the man who mapped 1.5 million square miles of North America about 200 years ago.

Some of Thompson’s travels included northwestern Montana and the International Selkirk Loop region, a famous scenic route through Washington, Idaho and British Columbia.

“(The project) ties us in with the International Selkirk Loop,” Mesenbrink said, “and it’s getting major recognition all over the country right now.”

The marketing campaign is scheduled to commence late this spring in time for summer and fall travel, according to a February project update. Other Montana regions will be highlighted, as well as routes that run through Idaho, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alberta.