Didgette McCraken and Don Merritt

Didgette McCracken (left) and Don Merritt (right) talk about Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site’s increase in visitors, speaking at the Nov. 13 county court meeting.

More visitors are coming to the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, but a recent survey showed that additional growth is possible.

Don Merritt, the museum curator, shared with the John Day City Council and the Grant County Court that the study helped show the museum what can be done to improve their reach with tourists and how to better direct guests to local businesses and attractions.

The survey showed that 9,382 people visited Kam Wah Chung so far in 2019. The survey gave visitors an opportunity to note what would make their visit more enjoyable.

“I was having a conversation with someone in my office when I was typing up this presentation and they said ‘Coffee shop? That’s really silly. Everybody knows there’s like five coffee shops in John Day’,” said Didgette McCracken, the Oregon State University Extension Open Campus coordinator, speaking at the county court meeting. “I said that was a good comment because we know there’s like five coffee shops in John Day, but our visitors don’t know what our amenities are.”

Another common request that visitors made was to have a Chinese restaurant.

Comments like this have indicated how Merritt and volunteers at Kam Wah Chung can better inform people about what the area can provide.

With the survey showing that 63% of the visitors were over the age of 56, this prompted Grant County Commissioner Sam Palmer to ask what can be done to market to millennials.

“We knew that we had a gap in advertising and marketing,” said Merritt. “In our front group we are working on a new Facebook page, we are currently developing a brand new website and we want to market that as well. We are also working on grant money for extra marketing and funding.”

Merritt noted the importance of marketing to people from out of state and internationally as well.

The amount of people visiting Kam Wah Chung has doubled in the last three years and the amount of visitors will continue growing with help from national and international television shows.

In other county court news:

• The court approved the revised contract between Community Counseling Solutions and Grant County. The state developmental disabilities office recently had some changes that they wanted passed into the county contracts.

• The court approved the Airport Runway Decoupling/Supplemental Project CatEx.

• The court accepted the Critical Oregon Airport Relief Program Grant agreement. This COAR grant will provide almost $136,000 that will supplement other grant agreements at a 9% match funding for the FAA eligible project cost. This is for the North Corporate Apron project.

• The court approved and signed a letter of support for an Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board application. This will aid a study on empty subsurface aquifers that can be filled or refilled with water when there are heavy flows or can be pumped out later when there are low flows.

• The court approved an easement to the city of John Day for the sewer line near the fairgrounds. After discussion between the county and the city, it was made final that no land change hands.

• The court approved an amendment to reinstate the search and rescue line funds of $14,000. Previously, the county closed three accounts that were no longer necessary for their services provided by the county. The search and rescue line was closed in error.

The two accounts that were cut and returned to the general fund were $60,270 for the jail expansion and $25,180 for the book mobile reserve.


Rudy Diaz is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at rudy@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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