Chehaw Attendance Up in 2011

Barbara Kieker

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Attendance at Chehaw, which includes more than 700 acres of conservation land, camping facilities and a wild animal park, increased by 10 percent in 2011.  Given the economic times, it was a fairly typical year.

"Families often have stay-at-home vacations during tough economic times.  We've seen attendance go up in past cycles," said Chehaw Executive Director Doug Porter.

Not the Same Old Park

Attendance has been steady for several years at Chehaw, thanks in part to the advertising and rebranding work the park has undertaken over the last three to four years.  In addition to a new logo and redesigned, more interactive website, Chehaw spruced up its entrance with a new sign, gate and landscaping.

"The park is 75 years old so over time people tend not to think about it as much.  We wanted to refresh our image," Porter said.  "I'd say we've gotten more comments about our new entrance than any other single thing we've done in the last five years."

According to Porter, when people see the new entrance they assume it's not the same old park.  And they're right.  Chehaw now features new campground facilities including full-service hook-ups for recreational vehicles and cabins, WiFi hotspots that enable mothers to be online on their iPads or Kindles while their children play on the playground and new signage throughout the park.

African Veldt to Open this Spring

This spring, a new exhibit will open in the wild animal park called the African Veldt.  Veldt refers to the wide-open spaces of southern Africa, mostly flat plateaus covered in grasses or scrub.  The exhibit covers 47 acres and will be populated with zebras, antelopes, ostriches and other hoof stock.  On February 25, the annual Chehaw fundraiser will be held in a tent on the African Veldt exhibit.

"Initially the exhibit will be open for events on a reservation basis.  We plan to offer a safari-type experience – driving guests through the exhibit in park vehicles," Porter said.

"For example, we are envisioning offering a Sunrise Safari event that would include breakfast and a tour of the exhibit, or a Sunset Safari event with dinner."

Porter believes the African Veldt exhibit will become a regional attraction that draws visitors from as far away as Atlanta, Tallahassee and other cities across the Southeast.

A Regional Attraction

Approximately 30 percent of Chehaw's visitors come from outside the surrounding 14-county region, according to Porter.  While no studies have been done to quantify the park's economic impact on the area, Porter believes visitors who drive long distances are likely to visit area restaurants and shops.

Chehaw receives a fixed $1 million in annual funding from the city of Albany and covers the rest of its $1.7 million annual budget and any improvements through fundraising and park revenues.  The park is physically located in both Lee and Dougherty Counties.  As a result, it counts the leaders of Albany, Lee County and Dougherty County among its key stakeholders.

"I'd love to see the three entities come together and work for the benefit of the region as a whole," Porter said.

"Everyone who works here at Chehaw sees the park as a long-term valuable asset for the community.  We are working to preserve and enhance it for future generations."

More information on Chehaw can be found at www.chehaw.org or call (229) 430-5275.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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