Pasture tours, guided trips by a museum vehicle into the National Buffalo Museum herd, are planned for next spring, according to Ilana Xinos, executive director of the National Buffalo Museum.
“it is still very much in the initial stage of development but is due to launch in the spring,” Xinos said. “… I can say that the project is key to supporting our mission of advocating for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach.”
Details like cost, number of times per day the tours run and how long the tour will last are still being worked out. The National Buffalo Museum received a $15,000 grant from North Dakota Tourism to start the project.
Xinos said the goal of the project is to present information about the modern bison industry. The majority of bison populating North America today exist on commercial ranches rather than in park or wildlife refuge herds.
“it will also educate visitors about the influential role that ranchers and producers have played in restoring the species since the end of the 19th century and into the present,” she said.
The new attraction could boost tourist numbers from last year when visitation was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“North Dakota fared better than some other states,” Swedlund said. “Less crowds.”
Xinos said admissions at the National Buffalo Museum were down about 50% and gift shop sales 36% last year. The museum was closed for several months and the museum was not able to hold its annual fundraising banquet.
“All of these factors had a negative financial impact on our organization,” she said.
Efforts by local tourism agencies last year centered on big projects, Swedlund said.
This included a new display at the Historic 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse Historic Site where a “hands-on display” allowed people to learn about government and history.
“It contrasts the territorial government to the modern times,” he said. “It is an amazing exhibit. Terrible to launch it in a year when people weren’t supposed to touch anything.”
Other enhancements among tourist attractions in the area include the “glamping” facility at Fort Seward and inventories of collections at the Stutsman County Museum and the National Buffalo Museum.
The National Buffalo Museum also used the opportunity to begin some new activities.
“We launched a virtual program called Bison After Breakfast, which was a series of informal conversations about various bison-related topics that featured bison experts from around the country,” Xinos said. “We were also able to expand our online store.”
Other new tourism features planned for this summer could include kayak or canoe docks at the base of Pipestem Dam that would allow water travelers to start or end their trip at that location. At the Frontier Village, new “play features” showing pioneer life and railroads could attract both children and adults.
Tourist numbers this coming season will likely depend on the status of the pandemic at the time, Swedlund said.
“We plan to be flat from last year,” he said, referring to projections for the number of visitors to the Jamestown area. “But we will likely see a nominal increase.”