Originally published Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 05:58a.m.
Tourist. A word that, for many, means long lines, gawking outsiders and obstructed pathways.
That is the wrong way to look at them, especially for a town on Route 66.
Did you know that the top two results when googling Route 66 are visitalbuquerque.org and enjoyillinois.com? Those are then followed by Wikipedia and nps.gov.
So, with Kingman’s location, the beautiful train park and water tower, and the shopping in historic downtown, how come it isn’t in the top of the search? Isn’t that one of the town’s claims to fame?
Sure if you click through to the actual website for Route 66 or plot out the drive on tripadvisor.com, Kingman does show up. And yeah, there are tourists that flock to places like Locomotive Park or Mr. D’z on Andy Devine. But there is limited space in that small section of town, and there is a lot of “old downtown” that isn’t being utilized.
The key is the flow of traffic. To put it plainly, traffic doesn’t go through Kingman. Not really. Andy Devine/Route 66 loops around Beale Street, the main drag of Kingman’s downtown, and most others can just jump on Interstate 40 without having to ever stop on Beale.
That’s a whole lot of traffic that is avoiding downtown.
A simple solution would be to slow traffic along Andy Devine. Make people have to take an extra second to pass through the area. They could see Mr. D’z or the old railroad station. They might even stop. Still doesn’t get them on Beale, especially without anything more interesting than D’z and the station, but it at least slows people down.
Other fixes would be creating areas for foot traffic along Beale. Benches to sit on, turning one of the intersections into a square or plaza of some sort, making Beale a one-way. Anything to encourage people to take a minute to look around and notice the shops.
The next step after that would be developing new business down there, though with the current hoops to jump through might be discouraging for business owners. It’s understandable that the city doesn’t want tourism to be the basis of Kingman’s economic success, especially as funding for Route 66 appears to be fizzling out. However, tourism shouldn’t be absent either. There is a reason people still love to travel along the Mother Road, and the ‘50s are a fun era to use as a launching pad for design.
Tourism shouldn’t be a crutch for Kingman’s economic development, but it should still be utilized as a powerful tool. Those tourist dollars are something small towns can’t afford to let slip through their fingers.