The Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau held the organization’s annual meeting on May 8 at the breathtaking Seraphim Ranch on Popular Flat Road in Bentonville. Seraphim Ranch consists of lodging and 800 acres of tranquil forest land that can be rented for hunting, weddings, or just to get away for the weekend. The participants at the event included Director Tom Cross of the ACTVB, State Senator Joe Uecker, staff representing US Representative Brad Wenstrup and Adams County Commissioners Stephen Caraway and Paul Worley.
Pete Whan, Head Conservationist at the Nature Conservancy, was also in attendance. The ACTVB recognized Whan for his contributions to the tourism industry in Adams County. Senator Uecker then presented Whan with a commendation from the Ohio Senate, thanking him for his service to the county. Whan will be retiring later this year.
Cross spoke on the growth of tourism in Adams County. According to the tax revenues from lodgings, 2013 was the best year financially for tourism in Adams County with overnight stays setting a new record. The signature event of the Bureau, the Adams County Amish Bird Symposium, continued its remarkable growth, reaching record capacity in its 12th year.
The ACTVB website had a 14 percent increase in traffic, going from 34,717 in 2012 to 39,558 in 2013. The mobile version of the site saw an astounding 54 percent increase, going from 5,815 in 2012 to almost 9,000 in 2013.
The cities with the largest number of people checking the Bureau website include two obvious cities - Columbus and Cincinnati. However, Chicago and. even more surprising, Minneapolis are also in the top four. The Amish page on the website draws the most views followed by the Adams County Events page. The Serpent Mound page is the fifth most viewed page, and the Adams County Marathon has had a 326 percent increase in page visits, moving it to the eighth most viewed page on the website.
The Bureau ran commercials for the first time in September and October. Ninety commercials ran in the Cincinnati and Columbus markets, and the Bureau ran an additional commercial in the Columbus market on April 20. The growth in web traffic from Cincinnati and Columbus is attributed to these commercials, and the Bureau expects to continue running advertisements in these market areas.
Adams County’s exposure in the printed press has grown as well with articles in Midwest Living, County Living, Cincinnati Magazine, Farm World, North American Whitetail, Field & Stream, Salt, and The Farmer’s Almanac.
Looking forward, the Bureau announced that proposed improvements to Serpent Mount will be carried out with an estimated $240,000 from the Governor’s capital budget bill. The Edge of Appalachia is rerouting, improving, and opening new public hiking trails. The Buckeye Trail is receiving a new addition that will add 14 miles from Waggoner Riffle to the Shawnee State Forest. New tourism maps are also being developed, and the Bureau is working with the county engineer’s office to place signs along roads that point the various attractions.
Commissioner Stephen Caraway gave a speech in memory of Myrna Hixson. Caraway discussed how she, as a founding member of the ACTVB, was dedicated to growing awareness of the many attractions that Adams County has to offer.
Ralph Alexander was the final speaker of the night, and he discussed the John T. Wilson homestead and Wilson’s participation in the underground railroad. Wilson was a statesman from Adams County. His donations led to the construction of the Wilson’s Children’s Home. At the time of his death, he had a net worth of $150,000, which would be equivalent to $14.2 million today.
Wilson was a strong abolitionist and Alexander has found signs of that throughout the property he owns and has restored in the Tranquility area. One of the items Alexander brought with him to show the audience was a breathing reed the escaped slaves used to breath through as a snorkel while hiding underwater.
Seraphim Ranch, those who provided the dinner, and the speakers were thanked for their efforts, and those present wished Adams County an even better year for tourism in 2014.
Paul Hannah can be reached at (937) 544-2391.