Focus groups give feedback as Moffat County marketing survey begins

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During a recent focus group meeting, Pati Martinez encouraged Moffat County residents to avoid cliché when talking about reasons people would want to visit the area.

“We’re in the business of killing words,” Martinez said. “We can’t say it’s unique and authentic without sounding like everyone else who wants to be unique and authentic. We have to find the nitty gritty things that really make this place what it is.”

Martinez is the creative director with Edwards-based Hill Aevium, a firm the Moffat County Tourism Association hired to conduct a county marketing survey.

The company hosted two focus groups March 14 in Moffat County, the first at the Moffat County Courthouse and the second in Dinosaur.

Moffat County residents were asked to answer seven questions, including what words could be used to describe the area, the types of people who visit, what the ideal visitor would be, as well as reasons people would or wouldn’t want to come to Moffat County.

The group at the courthouse discussed Moffat County, wrote out descriptions, and used photos from magazines to help share their vision.

Eleven people attended the courthouse meeting.

MCTA Board members Bryce Jacobson, Tom Mikesell, Kandee Dilldine, Kerry Moe and Tammy Thompson-Booker participated, as did Albert and Melody Villard, Frank Moe, Rebekah Greenwood and Ken Wergin, and Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray.

The majority of the meeting at the courthouse was spent discussing words that could be used to describe Moffat County.

There were several recurring themes during the discussion, including the county’s open landscape and the Western lifestyle.

Hill Aevium President Linda Hill said something that separates Moffat County from other tourist destinations is the classic Western lifestyle isn’t a marketing point, but rather a way of life.

“They hang their hat on their Western heritage,” she said. “When you look at Moffat, that Western heritage is still very much here, which is something to cherish.”

The Browns Park area was also brought up numerous times throughout the two-hour session.

“We have some homesteads in Browns Park that are still living the way they did 100 years ago in cabins that are the same age, yet we have all the modern conveniences,” Melody Villard said.

The group also discussed tourism ideas that could benefit the area. Ideas included places with living history, coal mine-based energy tourism, and other education-based ideas.

MCTA Director Marilynn Hill said six people attended the focus group meeting in Dinosaur, including four members of the town council, MCTA Board member Leona Hemmerich, and Mary Risser, superintendent of Dinosaur National Park.

“It was a small group, but it was really nice in that we really focused a lot on what the county is like over there,” she said.

She said the same questions were asked in both focus group meetings. She said answers overlapped some from the courthouse meeting, although Dinosaur was interested in working to become a destination town that tourists would stop and stay in, as opposed to one that visitors drive through.

“So often, people come to see the bones in Dinosaur (National Monument) and so they go to the Vernal side, yet the majority of the monument is in Moffat County,” the MCTA director said.

“The town of Dinosaur sees themselves many times as just a pass-through (town) and they don’t want to see that. I don’t blame them because they have a lot to offer,” she said.

Marilynn Hill said that over the next few weeks Hill Aevium will interview select people within the county as part of its research.

She said there is the possibility that another focus group could be paneled for additional feedback.

The input gathered from the focus groups will be used along with interviews and information from secondary sources to help craft a county marketing plan by mid-May.

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