Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Fallacy of Trading Sense of Place for Density

In May of 1989 I accepted an offer to relocate to Durham, North Carolina and jumpstart the community’s destination marketing organization.

It was clear during my interview visit that Durham had good bones as well as deeply held traits and values that would be appealing visitors.

By good bones, I mean that many of its indigenous, core commercial districts retained the smaller, people scale, historical blocks of buildings that a majority of travelers are drawn to because they reflect a distinctive sense of place.

This is the “there” there of a particular place that so very many places long ago surrendered. 

It is a term that was coined in the 1930s by Gertrude Stein that over time has come to describe anywhere that “sense of character or coherence has eroded,” as so eloquently noted by Scott Russell Sanders in his essay The Geography of Somewhere.

Of course there is a lot more to having a “there” there than just architectural setting.

It was also clear back then that Durham had given in every now and then to the temptation during the 80s to throw up a skyscraper or two, as it is currently doing.

But different than those prior to WWII, apparently both developers and local officials (as illustrated by their own buildings) have forgotten a crucial tenet noted by Witold Rybczyski in How Architecture Works.

New buildings, according to Rybcyski (Rib-chin-ski,) a noted architect, professor, critic and author, should foremost seek coherence with place and setting.TrustBuilding_pcard

When I mentioned a need for “coherence” to an official during deliberations for this newest and tallest building underway in Durham, I received only a look of bewilderment and something mumbled about the need for density.

More on density that later but studies show that, too, is a fallacy when used as a justification for towering structures that violate sense of place.

At year-end I will be seven years retired from that career, but last week the staff there invited me a personal tour of the new headquarters for the organization I led for 21 years in Durham.

Including the ground floor Durham Visitor Info Center, it occupies the first two floors of the six story 1905 Trust Building, Durham’s first skyscraper and one perfectly coherent with place.

It was the tallest building in the state when it was erected.  It also had the first elevator in Durham and was a little more than twice the height of surrounding buildings.

There is no record of controversy at the time but there is evidence three years later when the 47-story Singer Building opened in New York as the tallest building in the world that these structures were taking a toll on sense of place.

For several decades people had complained of the canyons these buildings created, along with the wind tunnel effect and the deep shadows they cast shortening the amount of daylight for blocks in at a time.

Now, 100 years after Jane Jacobs published launched a conversation in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a new study across a wide range of metrics finds that blocks of older, smaller builders perform better than districts with larger, newer structures.

By comparison, these blocks generate more jobs per square foot, a greater diversity of businesses, more non-chain local businesses, more small business vitality and greater density, more character, walkability and a broader socio-economic residential mix.

The answer isn’t either/or.  It is about mix, fit and especially coherence.

Communities that have surrendered to forces who told them they had to sell out their sense of place in order to be major league still have pockets or fragments they can salvage.

Communities such as Durham that turned the corner with sense of place in tact but may be unprepared for how quickly out of town “buyer/flippers” as well as franchise architecture developer/lenders can hollow out sense of place.

They may need to shift gears even more quickly.

Reading this study is a good start.   Begin by dissuading planners and officials of any notion that coherence of place must be sacrificed for density.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Lessons From An Era’s Promise Unfulfilled

The rumble of our more than thirty year old inboard when it fires to life in our runabout most weekends is a reminder of my own passing into “vintage” years.

Not only because starting up at all, regardless of how well maintained, should never be taken for granted after all these years, but because the powerful 4-cylinder's technology actually dates to the early 1970s.

Coincidentally, that was when I was first cutting my teeth on what became a lifelong career in community destination marketing.

The early 1970s was an era, such as now, filled with transformational promise in that field.

So during frequent guest lectures for today’s college students in destination marketing I encourage them to look back at what they can learn.

In fact, the lessons I hope they will glean might help them understand why so many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) today still function much as they did in the late 1960s/early 1970s albeit under a thin veneer of “digital window dressing.”

Let me touch very briefly on two huge paradigm shifts that gave so much promise and opportunity to DMO execs as the 1970s opened up.

One involved the emergence of a new technology for marketing intelligence and the other dealt with the near simultaneous rise of a range of nationwide sense of place policies.

In the late 1960s while unwrapping for airlines why some people were resistant to flying, Dr. Stanley Plog developed a data model for understanding, segmenting and then appealing to travelers based on the type of leisure destinations that fit their travel interests.1985-century-boats-mustang-jjxxlx

This had the effect of making accessible the vastly greater tourism potential beyond the 10% or so related to conventions and meetings that had been the limited focus of nearly every destination for the previous seven decades.

At virtually the same time, a range of national sense-of-place policies were rapidly beginning to transform communities.

In the wake of 1960s battles that brought disrepute to urban renewal/destruction to make way for mega-facilities such as convention centers, a slate of new policies greeted the 1970s.

Instead, they were intended to make communities more appealing by fostering historic preservation, waterway restoration, natural area protection, cultural endowment and highway beautification by eliminating sign and billboard blight.

Strategic thinkers christened the 1970s as an era when destination marketing, too, would broaden its approach.  Across the land many DMOs even added “and visitor” to their organizational names in anticipation, as did the professional association in 1974.

So what happened?  Why did most stop with just a change in nomenclature?

Why did so few 1970s era DMO execs grasp or embrace these lucrative shifts even as strategic foresights came to fruition?

Or for that matter, why did so few of those who they mentored in subsequent decades ever seem to move beyond the same 1960s style destination marketing?

Don’t get me wrong. There have been some significant strides in destination marketing since that time and there have always been best practitioners and strategic thought leaders.

Even the vast majority who have remained 1960s retro at their core typically try some new elements when they come along.

What is noteworthy, however, is that many often mistake a strategic change as something tactical, e.g. the Internet, and a tactical change as a strategy, e.g. social media and these elements always remain peripheral to a 1960s era core. 

We know now that as strategists projected in the early 1970s, by the early 1990s leisure travel overall eclipsed business travel (including conventions,) which both tipped into gradual, though turbulent, decline in the late 1980s.

Last month it was announced that even among the 9 or 10% of person-trips taken by Americans via commercial airlines, leisure trips have now eclipsed business/convention trips as the pre-eminent reason for US air travel.

And still, generation after generation among DMO execs remain stuck in the late 1960s throwing up look alike mega-facilities, then paying subsidies to get enough groups to fill them.

All of this while then proclaiming, seeming without any sense of irony as one did recently, that this dwindling segment is somehow “the heart of any major city.”

This sense of denial, too, dates to the 1960s.  When the first feasibility studies were conducted as prerequisites for public mega-facilities in the latter 1950s, they came back negative.

Proponents (not all of whom were DMOs) quickly learned the tactic of shopping for studies until they got what they wanted and then stoked hyperbole as justification.

Thus one I suspect was born the “the heart of any major city.”

But this introspection is not about shaming my generation of DMO execs or as you will read sparing myself.

There are several lessons for today’s DMO aspirants to take away from an examination of the failed hopes of the early 1970s if they are to ever hope to help destinations emerge from this quicksand in the future and go on to fulfill the promises of their own era:

First, it may be helpful to understand that in the field of destination marketing, we’re all shaped to a some extent, by the destinations we each have the honor to serve.

This includes the time period when we serve them and especially the foresight of each boards that governs the DMO during those particular spans.

A few people are quick to credit me with fulfilling the promise of that 1970s era but as I will explain, it is far more complicated than that.

Much of any credit goes not only to the nature of the three destinations I led but the unique time frames and especially the unusually farsighted and fearless boards who governed those DMOs during those spans.

I led the first during the 1970s.  I was a voracious reader and had the benefit of some strategic mentors, but it was all just starting to sink in when I moved on.  Within a few years that DMO was and remains, in essence, a 1960s model.

Together with the board, I definitely took the second destination to a fulfillment of the 1970s era promise over stiff opposition from 1960s stalwarts.  Once I moved on though, and the board rotated, it all but reverted to a 1960s model.

It is probably from my third and final destination that any reputation for fulfilling that 1970s era promise is more deserved, but there were always a handful trying to pull us back to the 1960s.

Long after I’ve retired, the destination perseveres but regression is always a threat I’m sure.

So as far as my own record goes, batting .300 is pretty good if I were hitting fastballs or 3-pointers, I guess, but just so so measured against the promise of we felt inspired to accomplish when I started my DMO career in the 1970s. 

Frankly, had I not been the beneficiary of being in these three places when I was, given my nature, it is doubtful I would have been drawn to make destination marketing a career.

Another take-away from examining why more DMO execs didn’t rise to the promise of that 1970s era is that there is an incredible inertia that traps tourism in general in its 1960s past.

In part, this inertia is fostered by at least four conditions:

  1. A “circle the wagons” mentality when it comes to change, reflection on the past or even introspection such as this.
  2. A powerful industrial complex of entrenched interest groups, feasibility consultants, developers and old-school elected officials.
  3. An impatience with discussing concepts, ideas and anything controversial which stymies strategic thinking.
  4. A stubbornness or failure to grasp the importance of improvements to nomenclature, e.g. referring to tourism as an industry instead of a sector (which is a combination of many industries such as lodging, transportation, foodservice, entertainment etc.)

There are many other strategic lessons to be learned by looking back at that earlier 1970s era not the least of which is the importance of seeking out those DMO execs today whose DNA traces back to 1970s era execs that somehow, someway, were able to realize some of its promise.

Destination marketing, at its very essence, is about differentiation and that includes, among others, strategic differentiation, marketing differentiation and destination differentiation.

But it all begins with a broader understanding of the arc of where destination marketing has been, where it could have and should have been as well as where it should go in the future to remain relevant.

Few of us in that 1970s era could piece together a picture of the sweeping changes that were underway like we can by looking back in hindsight.

Even strategic thinkers at the time were not connecting the dots for us and maybe that is one of the lessons for students to take away that will help them pull so many DMOs out of the 1960s quicksand and leapfrog to this era’s transformational promise.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Unlikely Origin of Tourism’s Sense of Authenticity

Reaching back to a tent restaurant erected there in 1919, Lexington brands itself, at least in part, the “barbecue capital” of North Carolina, a state with considerable heritage in that regard.

But it was a tragic train accident eight years earlier that occurred between that would-be tent site and what is now High Rock Lake that is more symbolic for tourism historically across the nation.

My Tar Heel Roots go back to 1650 but because I am the last of a line of five generations of Idaho ranchers going back to the 1860s and didn’t make my way to North Carolina until 1989, I’m considered “adopted” by those who could be considered far more relative “newbies.”

But it seems that wherever I’ve lived, including my native Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho, I’ve crossed paths with William F. Cody.  It was least expected here in North Carolina as I began what would be the last half of a four decade career in community destination marketing.

When a freight train tragically smashed into one of three trains near Lexington, Cody’s “Buffalo Bill Wild West Show”s (sometimes known by other names) was in the midst of 40 performances throughout North Carolina between 1878 and 1916, including two in Durham where we live.

Over 100 horses were killed in the accident, and the vitality of the show that had also performed hundreds of times throughout the country and throughout Europe would never really recover.

But it is easily arguable that no other person did more to instill a curiosity for transcontinental travel across the United States in both Americans and those overseas.

His attention to detail and authenticity informed expectations. 

Equally significant, Cody redefined and instilled a deep appreciation for history, culture and artifacts among those living in relatively newly settled lands east of the Hundredth Meridian.

He seemed to innately grasp what place branding expert Bill Baker tries to impart wherever he is invited to teach.

The brand of a particular place is, in essence, its innate personality.  It exists at the intersection of what internal audiences and external audiences perceive it to be.

Today, more than ever, it is not something you conjure up or create, it’s simple who and what you genuinely are, something Cody understood was far more appealing than fantasy.

In a moment I will share a story or two about how Cody’s influence has helped shape the negotiation of authenticity over the decades about what it is and isn’t western, a negotiation still underway.

But first, for anyone unfamiliar or in need of a very quick refresher:

Cody was born in Iowa in 1846; the year after my ancestors began fleeing across the southern half of that soon-to-be state toward sanctuary in the Rockies.

Then his family moved to eastern Kansas where he lost his father.

At age 11 he worked as a rider carrying messages between drivers and workers on wagon trains before becoming a bullwhacker, then a trapper, miner and briefly a Pony Express Rider.

He enlisted in the Union Cavalry and after the war worked as a buffalo hunter for the railroad.  Cody then became a Chief of Scouts for the 5th U.S. Cavalry, leading the rescue of Wild Bill Hickok.

Eventually, he earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars.

Cody became a public figure and the subject of dime novels as well as outspoken about the rights of Native Americans.  In addition, he became a performer and show producer.

As a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, Cody was also instrumental in the nation’s first national forest and the national reclamation act.

The best way to get a sense of William F. Cody is to visit his namesake along the Absaroka Mountains in northern Wyoming as they give way to the Bighorn.

Cody, Wyoming is the eastern and to many the most scenic and least touristy gateway to Yellowstone Park.  It is also home to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which is comprised of four museums including one devoted to Bill Cody’s story as well as a research library.

The little town is also home to the still operating Irma Hotel which Cody co-founded a year after that train wreck back in North Carolina. 

He began by acquiring and then expanding the T E Ranch up the more secluded South Fork from Cody in 1895 and then built a hunting lodge up on the North Fork where the road now leads to Yellowstone since the dam was built.

But Cody first saw the potential of this area in 1870 while leading a scientific expedition up the Bighorn.  It happened to be the same year an expedition was being led to examine the potential of Yellowstone.

Until then, exploration of river valleys along the Rockies such as the Henry’s Fork where my ancestors would settle were dismissive of any settlement potential.  But fresh eyes such as Cody’s changed all of that.

William F. Cody had a sense of authenticity that has inspired 150 years of nomenclature about the old West and is preserved today in details and artifacts such as clothing and dress and speech.

His shows inspired audiences to travel and to know what to expect.  They also helped negotiate what experts call the ongoing interplay and socially-agreed upon construct that we designate as authentic.

Tourism faces much courser fault lines than just authenticity today.  Take for instance, the one that exists between commercial hucksterism and genuine sense of place.

The West does too, and not just recently with standoffs by a few militants in Nevada and Oregon.

In 1939, a movement anchored in the Sheridan Rotary Club began with a threat to secede and break off northern Wyoming including Cody and Yellowstone into the State of Absoroka.

The frustration back then, as it had been during the “range wars” 50 years earlier was more about intrastate politics with the federal policies as a surrogate.

But as it does today, another fault line separated the views of preservationist northwestern and fossil-fuel driven northeastern Wyoming.

I thought of this on a cross country trip through my homeland a few years ago while listening to a story on the radio far more reflective of the West in which I grew up.

A rancher down on the South Fork, near Cody’s T E ranch, was out irrigating his hay fields in June of 2013 when he accidentally came between a Grizzly and her cubs.

Watch this very short video of this remarkable account and listen carefully to Nic Patrick’s remarks at the end.

If you are a regular reader, you may recall that my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas B. Graham, was killed in 1864 by a Grizzly in Cache Valley, Utah under similar circumstances, after having put his rifle down to help my great-great grandfather load some wood.

Like many ranchers, Patrick is a conservationist.  Also like many ranchers, he has another occupation.  For nearly forty years, he and his family have built authentic log homes, often for people who are drawn to live a version of the life Bill Cody depicted.

He understands something that William F. Cody came to understand during his lifetime.

Tourism can help preserve nature and the things it loves.  But unmanaged tourism can also often introduce changes that can kill the very the things it loves.

A lot is written today about gentrification of historic neighborhoods.  If well-managed so that socio-economic diversity is preserved, it isn’t a problem.  If not, the very soul of those neighborhoods and the reasons they became so popular is rapidly hollowed out.

However, gentrification can also occur in areas of the West around public lands.   Studies show that for both kinds of gentrification, tourism popularity can provide warning signals to policy makers that they need to instill protections.

Unfortunately, tourism circles today have far too few Buffalo Bill Cody’s.  Instead of being willing to debate the broader issues society faces, they are prone instead to circle the wagons.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Legendary Journey

From a vista in the center of San Francisco known as Twin Peaks, you can look down on a spot in the Mission District with the Bay glimmering to the east.

For a few years in the early 1860s this was known as Camp Alert, a race track-turned-Union Cavalry training facility.

I’ve always wondered how Thomas K. Messersmith, one of my maternal great-great grandfathers, who was a fourth-generation Southerner and native Missourian came to enlist to fight for the Union and train there, so far from home.

Tracing genealogy is a journey, often beginning by tracking down documentation for family legends.  But even when found, each revelation usually still leaves a loose end or two, that once tied open yet another revelation.

By the 1860 census, my great-great grandfather, a few weeks shy of 26 years old, was bunking with two other miners who were well into their 30s, T.H. Wilson from Virginia and N.F. Scott from Maryland.

They were living in a boarding house in Virginia City, Nevada which was then a part of Utah Territory and the site of the Comstock silver discovery only a few months earlier.

I doubt he came out to the California Gold Rush a decade earlier because the census then shows him still at home in Missouri.

But Virginia City had not only been named by Southerners, it was a hotbed at the time for secessionists who were gloating at having defeated a proposal for statehood because it included a prohibition of slavery.

My great-great grandfather had somehow formed a friendship with Samuel Clemens, who was a year younger and yet to adopt his famous pen name “Mark Twain,”

Because they were born and raised in very different parts of Missouri, I suspect they had formed a bond once Twain arrived in Virginia City with his brother, probably as much over as shared prowess for playing cards as briefly sharing a mining claim.

These fragments can be pieced together from references in collections of Twain’s letters from that time, which also confirm that my great-great grandfather would often be referred to be “Smith,” a truncation of his last name, Messersmith, just as my great-grandfather Ralph would later do.

This discredits another family legend that the truncation was the result of discrimination during World War I. 

My great-great grandfather gave up on mining around the time he crossed paths with Twain or shortly thereafter and headed up and over the Sierra Nevada’s and down to Stockton to enlist for the Union on October 3, 1861.

Interestingly, Twain had already served a two week stint with a Confederate militia back in Missouri and still had Southern sympathies at the time.

This and the dissention back in their home state must have led to some interesting conversations between the two Missourians.

The California into which my great-great grandfather rode had been in deep turmoil since a deep spit the year before in the Democratic Party, which had resulted in the election of President Abraham Lincoln with just a third of the vote.

Rampant secessionist conspiracies had compromised local militias and more than a few law enforcement official, especially in Southern California, leading to public demonstrations by both sides.

At the same time, regular Union Army units were being withdrawn to the east and several new Union regiments of California Volunteers were being enlisted to protect communications and critical ore shipments needed to fund the war effort from sabotage and attack.

My great-great grandfather made a conscious decision which to my prior understanding was contrary to his both native state and his friends.

But digging further I have learned that it was me that was very much misinformed.

It took me a while to track down that he initially enlisted in Company A of the Third Regiment which was an Infantry unit, but that didn’t jive with family legend that he was Cavalry.

Nor did the date of that unit’s arrival in Salt Lake and its various assignments align with the date and place he eventually mustered out of the army at the end of his tour.

Finally, I found a small reference in one military citation that read, “see Company L Second Regiment Cavalry.”

After being outfitted at the Benicia Arsenal, he may or may not have participated with Company A in the Bald Hills uprising that ended at Fort Baker before being transferring to Cavalry.

It is more probable that he was moved to Cavalry training in San Francisco almost immediately.

A hint is provided in one of Twain’s letters, dated May 17, 1862, where he asks another friend to send a pair of Spanish spurs hanging back in his office out to my great-great grandfather.

Between late that summer and early fall, with Cavalry training at Camp Alert behind him, at least a part of my great-great grandfather’s company in detachment with another had joined Col. Patrick Conner in Stockton.

From there, along with 1,000 other Cavalry and Infantry, they moved in phases over the Sierra Nevada’s and out into the Great Basin along the Overland Trail.

They rode first to Fort Churchill about 30 miles east of Virginia City and then proceeded on to secure Fort Ruby, near, coincidentally, where two other of my great-grandparents would drive stagecoach a few decades later.

Eventually, they based at Camp Douglas (later re-named Fort Douglas,) a newly created installation on a bench of the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City, where, again coincidentally, my father would be inducted into the army during WWII.

From there, my great-great grandfather’s Cavalry company would deploy to protect wagon routes in mountain valleys to the west where they were under constant attack.

This was all during the period when the Pony Express was phasing out and the first Transcontinental Telegraph was being completed along a major freighting corridor to the east carrying bullion and supplies for the war effort.

It is hard to relate just how broadly and intensely these facilities were under attack during the Civil War from warring bands of Paiutes and Shoshone-Bannock peoples, stretching in a “T” up the Upper Snake River Valley to what would become my birthplace eight decades later.

So I will insert this link as background.

Because so much of the family legend surrounding my great-great grandfather’s Union Cavalry experience has now been documented, I have no doubt that one day I will find verification of another part.

As the story has been passed down, the scar through his trademark mustache was the result of deflecting a Shoshone arrow that would have struck Colonel Connor.

My initial skepticism, at least of this particular hand-me-down family legend, has repeatedly proven groundless so far.

When digging into family history it helps to remember that legends are traditional stories regarded as historical but unauthenticated, usually because those details have been lost as the stories were passed down.

My great-great grandfather was notoriously quiet and solitary, spending weeks at a time herding sheep up into several of valleys along the Oquirrh Mountains where he had once patrolled near the end of his stint as a Cavalry trooper, including Rush Valley where attacks were especially frequent.

(Another, Cedar Valley, where he settled, is shown above.)

He became a Mormon and spent the remainder of his days alongside the very Overland Trail he had help protect as a means to hold the Union together never revealing what I now know of how he came to choose that side.

But in researching this blog, I think that has become clear.

Missouri, it turns out, may have had a very vocal population who had migrated from slaveholding states but by the time of the Civil War, while a neutral border state, it was firmly Unionist in sentiment.

It had its share of secessionist scheming.

But given the opportunity to vote for secessionist candidates to a convention, it overwhelmingly instead voted for Unionist representatives who voted 99-1 against secession and 70-23 against solidarity with Southern slave states.

Most telling about my great-great grandfather’s decision is that those fellow Missourians who enlisted to fight for the Union outnumbered those who enlisted to fight for the Confederacy by nearly 4-1 (110,000 to 30,000.)

Mystery solved at least for my great-great grandfather.

Unfortunately, far too many Americans are still fighting that war.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Origins of a Divide That Still Haunts Tourism Today

Once you turn off the country road toward our place on Mayo Lake there is a mile of gravel road before you reach the last stretch of pavement leading to our lakeside retreat.

It is what was called “macadam” when road surfaces in America first started to be improved in the 1820s (as depicted in the image below.) 

Many so-called paved roads in the countryside today are macadam bound together with a little asphalt tar.

By 1909, just as what is now called North Carolina Central University was founded, Durham, where we alternatively live a part of each week, was being heralded for already having laid 82 miles of macadam road.

Nationwide at the time, only 700 miles of road, about 10% of the total were as good or better than those in Durham.

By that year there were almost 306,000 cars and a few more than 6,000 trucks registered in America, up from 8,000 overall in less than a decade. 

Those known as “highway progressives” were already shifting the economic impact rationale for good roads from “farm to market” to “tourism.”

But ironically, roads had long been politically, as well as ideologically, controversial.

Other than military roads, Founding Father progressives on both sides of the isle, such as Washington and Jefferson, had only been able to push through the first “national road” along what is now I-40 as a means to open up western settlements for Revolutionary War veterans.

Conservatives argued that roads were too expensive and that they should be a state issue.

Then at the state level, such as in North Carolina, they were often able to pigeonhole roads as a county-by-county issue clear up until the eve of the Civil War.

It was about this time that pleasure driving/riding in carriages took hold, usually limited to grand city parks such as those created by Fredrick Law Olmsted or in cemeteries.

But in 1888 the re-invention of the pneumatic tire, which had been unsuccessfully introduced in 1846, galvanized a grass-roots coalition of activists to push for good roads.

The coalition was spearheaded by bicycle riders who teamed with “farmers, nature-lovers, conservationists and tourists” to spawn a national movement not only better roads but a national network of “hard-surfaced, all-weather roads.”

Soon they were joined by nascent automobile manufacturers.

The roads envisioned were a means to an end such as farm to market or home to resort but all roads were intended to be scenic along the way.

Then as the movement gained steam between 1911 and 1926 “highway progressives” were overwhelmed by commercial interests who coopted the movement.

It created a schizo-polarization of tourism that persists today.

At one end are those with a deep respect for sense of place, authenticity and scenic preservation. 

On the other is a hawker-huckster form frenetically enabling billboards, developer churn, mainstream mega-facilities and other forms of cookie-cutter architecture.

To overcome conservative opposition to a system of national roadways, “highway progressives” had begun to tout tourism as a rationale.

To enlist communities along proposed roadways they encouraged them to “manufacture” reasons for tourists to stop along these routes.

Rather than look to innate qualities, community boosters egged on by a chamber-of-commerce mentality fell instead for hyperbole, thus the manufacture of roadside amusements along with monikers such as the “Grand Canyon of the East” or the “Paris of the South.”

By 1930, many states, including North Carolina had begun to fight back against blight but the forces of blight this has fueled including a faction of tourism that had found political cover among a wing of conservatives.

This wing of conservatives, which cut across party lines, has consistently and inexplicably argued that blight is good for economic development, something still being repeated by a candidate running for governor in the last election.

Tourism, if it was more open to introspection as well as critical and strategic thinking would align in such a way that it could shift this paradigm.

But don’t hold your breath. 

It isn’t just that one side of the schizo-divide is somewhat superficial.  More problematic is that the other side lacks the moral courage and passion of those early “highway progressives.”