By Jeffrey V. Smith
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY
C.J. Miner is Clear Creek County’s colorful new mascot. The cartoon hard rock miner, and his companion Dixie, are here to entice visitors to explore the county’s mines, mills, museums and more. The two are only a part of an exciting new campaign to promote the “authentic western mining and railroad heritage” of the county and its historic towns of Idaho Springs, Empire, Georgetown, and Silver Plume.
The new promotional program and self-guided learning experience targets Front Range residents and out-of-state visitors and invites them to explore Clear Creek County’s history and mining heritage through an interactive map, trip itineraries and special events. “Designed to increase overall visitation to Clear Creek County, this new plan will showcase our historic mining districts, lead visitors to explore gold and silver mines, mills, and the opportunity to discuss our history and heritage with County historians,” according to Clear Creek County Tourism Bureau Director Cassandra Patton.
The goal for the program is to help transform Clear Creek County’s “pass through community stigma” and offer a “new beginning” to the county. “The new program will increase visitation and ideally become a cornerstone for our tourism industry to build upon,” Patton explained. “Governor Hickenlooper recently stated ‘How do we get people to spend less time on our highways and more time enjoying our trails?’ and ‘What if our real competition is really the television set.’ Both are brilliant statements and, in fact, they could easily be applied to our authentic mining heritage, our attractions, and our destinations. It’s time to encourage citizens of Colorado and visitors to experience what Colorado and Clear Creek County truly have to offer.”
The new marketing plan was created by Patton to highlight the county’s history, which was determined to be an under utilized asset. With the expected closure of the Henderson Molybdenum Mine in Empire within the next 3-5 years, the county estimates it will lose 70 percent of all collected property taxes. According to Patton, budget cuts are underway and the economic impact continues to be a hot topic as well as the growing tourism industry and desirable revenue growth.
“Currently, tourism is the second highest revenue generating industry in Clear Creek County, and many are hoping the revenue will continue to grow and help offset the loss of the Henderson Mine,” she said. “Although many are hopeful, we are quite aware that tourism alone cannot remedy the 70 percent loss in property tax. However, we can look for small ways to strengthen our community, maximize our offerings, and begin to prepare for the closure. New, innovative ideas like this educational experience are highly valued as it provides a positive momentum for the county to build upon, a new tourism draw to increase overall visitation to the county, and additionally will give our communities an opportunity to take pride in our mining heritage.”
The overall design and creative development for the campaign is the result of plenty of hard work by Patton and a small creative team. “New campaigns take a little bit of thought, creativity and strategy, but ultimately a lot of follow through,” she said. “Each year the Clear Creek County Tourism Bureau applies for a $25,000 Marketing Matching Grant with the Colorado Tourism Office. This year, I really wanted to get creative as we were not awarded the additional funding for 2015 or 2016. So, I packed in grant writing workshops, county meetings… as well as the Governors Tourism Conference, and other miscellaneous meetings that would further help me understand what [the county tourism bureau] could use to expand our marketing efforts, and in turn, drive more revenue into the county. This said, after reviewing the information I took away from each meeting, I could not help but focus on the ‘underplayed history’ here and wanted to bring it to life in a new innovative way.”
With her creative background, Patton explained she began to “think in color and bring all of the ideas together” to start writing the grant and simply allowed it to “come together on its own.” Regardless, the campaign took plenty of planning and forethought.
“From start to finish I wanted to make sure I followed a pattern in creating a new experience for visitors while capitalizing on the rich history here,” she said. “The main idea was an interactive map that would highlight specific landmarks to explore, and then build off of that with trip ideas and special events. Another key element would be marketing and designing the advertising campaign that would ultimately educate visitors about the experience. Once the rough draft was written, I gained additional insight from the Tourism Bureau Board of Directors as well as additional county stakeholders, employees and business owners who helped refine the concept and wrote incredible letters of support to be included with the application.” The hard work paid off in November when the county was awarded the full $25,000 towards the campaign.
“The primary asset to the new campaign is our printed interactive map as well as the animated, interactive map found on our website ClearCreekCounty.org,” Patton explained. “Other supporting elements are a cutout of C.J. Miner that can go on the “explore” adventure with you, his personal Facebook page [CJMiner303] where you can share your experiences, as well as special appearances of the life size card board cutout throughout the County, or special stickers you receive for attending a special event. In addition to the experience there are other marketing efforts underway such as billboards along I-70, online paid advertising, printed newspaper advertising, and our upcoming Tourism and Heritage Talks in the Park happening in August.”
Rather than making a cartoon version of a historical figure, the tourism board were “well advised” they could have more fun with the character if they “made it our own.” It was agreed to name him C.J. Miner, although he has been called “Flat Miner,” since he’s modeled after the idea of “Flat Stanley.” The board thought it would be “really great to bring him to life,” so a Facebook page was created.
While Patton did the heavy lifting—including designs for the billboard, newspaper and web advertisements, other printed promotions, sticker designs, C.J. Miner’s Facebook page and layout of the printed map—there are a few others to thank for the new program. “Sam Wallace, our freelance illustrator and I worked closely on the design of C.J. Miner as well as the elements within the adventure map as well as the Clear Creek County Tourism Bureau Board of Directors,” she said. Also, Karsh and Hagan created the live interactive, animated map on the website.
Look for the new promotional materials in visitor centers and businesses all over Clear Creek County and stop by the county’s tourism website to find several exciting and historical places to discover and explore right here in our backyard.
Visit clearcreekcounty.org/explore to learn more.
© Originally published in the August 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly