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Gas prices not expected to have much effect on Crawford tourism

April 11, 2012
Sharon Wilson has a smile on her face. That, in itself, isn't unusual, as those who know her can attest. However, what makes Wilson's smile especially bright is that tourism in Crawford County doesn't seem to be down despite gas prices being up, having consistently flirted with the $4-per-gallon mark the past few weeks.

The face of Crawford County tourism for years as the lone employee at the county's welcome center off of Interstate 64 Exit 92 at Carefree, Wilson said there has not been a decrease in calls and e-mails from people considering a visit.

"So far, it hasn't hurt at all," she said.

Nor does she expect it to. People, Wilson explained, will still get out and visit different areas, even if they have to make some adjustments to save money. For example, she expects more trips to become, what she calls, "a friend affair," as people double up to save on expenses.

Despite much competition for those summer tourism dollars, Wilson expects Crawford County to receive its fair share. A native who moved away for some time, she said there isn't anywhere else like it.

"Crawford County's the most beautiful place in the country," she said, noting that, from its well-known attractions, including Marengo Cave and Patoka Lake, to its "hidden gems," the county has something for both locals and out-of-towners.

Wilson said one such hidden gem is the privately-owned 250-acre Sycamore Springs Park west of English. Operated by the Clayton Roberson Family Foundation Inc., the park is ideal for persons wanting to hike, picnic or camp without having to spend a lot of money, since admission is free, although reservations are needed to camp, she said.

"They don't advertise much," she said. "They don't have to."

Another attraction that used to be a hidden gem but has become more well known is Hemlock Cliffs southwest of English, Wilson said. The area, which is a popular spot for hikers, however, is probably utilized more by visitors than county residents, she said.

David Pollock, a Washington County resident who drives throughout Crawford County weekly as part of his job, agreed with Wilson that people are missing out by not exploring what is in their backyards.

"There's a lot of things close to home that people need to check out," he said, adding that doing so also helps the wallet. "You can still get out and enjoy things in life without spending a lot of money by just doing things close to home."

Another hidden gem is the county's back roads, Wilson said, adding she often encourages visitors to drive throughout the county, from down to Alton along the Ohio River to past the Amish settlement near Curby. Such drives are among the best ways to see the county's beauty, she said.

"You never know what you're going to see when you travel back roads," she said.

"And you know what's good about a county road? It comes out somewhere."

The county's back roads were such a hit with Model A enthusiasts who included the county on its driving tour when they held their national convention in French Lick that they will return to Crawford County on May 31.

Wilson said she expects Crawford County, as well as other attractions throughout Indiana, to benefit from people who may not travel as far this summer. Many, she said, likely will be repeat visitors, having been impressed by the county's beauty as well as its friendliness.

"Crawford County hospitality Ö it makes people want to come back," she said.

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