More than 4,200 visitors signed the logbook at the bureau’s 2011 E. Logan St. location in Ottawa, Lee, the bureau’s director, said. Those signatures came from almost all 50 states and 23 countries, she recently told the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in her annual update on the bureau.
The transient guest tax, from which the bureau derives much of its funding, was down by about 10 percent for the year, Lee said. The bureau ended the year with $4,986.25 in the account, she said. Even with the transient guest tax down, Lee said, the year was fruitful overall.
“I still think we accomplished a lot last year, so it was a good year for us,” Lee said.
Sticking with numbers, Lee said volunteers logged 2,773 hours in 2012 at the bureau. If the bureau would have had to pay wages for those hours, it would have meant a cost of $47,141 for the year, she said.
“We really wouldn’t be able to operate the visitors center without the volunteers, so it’s really a great program for us,” Lee told the board.
With 84,000 visits in 2012 to the bureau’s website — www.visitottawakansas.com — Kansas, Florida, Missouri, California and Washington were the top five states with residents viewing online, Lee said. The organization is planning to update the site, she said. The new website will be up and running hopefully by the end of March, Lee said.
Also included in the report was an update on the bureau’s quilt barn block tour. The tour has grown to include 28 blocks in the almost two years of the program.
The barn block tour, the first of its kind in Kansas, involves hand-painted, unique quilt blocks adorning certain farmsteads throughout the county. As part of the program, a landowner commissions a piece to be painted, providing insight into the design he or she wants. Then volunteers paint an 8-foot square piece of plywood, and it is attached to the side of the barn or shed for passersby to enjoy.
A new addition to the program, Lee said, the visitors center now is offering 4-foot square blocks for residents to put on the sides of their buildings. The only stipulation, she said, is the block must be hung on an agriculture building of some type, not a garage.