‘For the Outdoorsy By the Ourdoorsy’: Tourism Agency’s New Hire Focuses on Outdoor Assets
meet Visit Eau Claire’s new outdoors development manager
When Kennedy Domerchie first visited Eau Claire, she was drawn by the outdoor opportunities available in the area, notably the many places to hike and bike.
Now, five years and a degree in geospatial analysis and technology from UW-Eau Claire later, Domerchie is dedicated to promoting and expanding those outdoor assets as a way of attracting visitors and improving the lives of locals.
In January, she began a full-time role as outdoors development manager for Visit Eau Claire, the local tourism marketing agency. Since then, she’s been working hard to identify and enhance the Chippewa Valley’s outdoor resources, tapping into both her geographic education and her passion for outdoor recreation.
“This town, I swear, was built for the outdoorsy by the outdoorsy,” she said in a recent interview. “I think just the way that our infrastructure is already encourages people to get out and use the trails and everything that we already have, but there’s so much opportunity to expand.”
This town, I swear, was built for the outdoorsy by the outdoorsy. I think just the way that our infrastructure is already encourages people to get out and use the trails and everything that we already have, but there’s so much opportunity to expand.
OUTDOORS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VISIT EAU CLAIRE
Already, Domerchie has worked on projects such as mapping regional ATV trails, Sculpture Tour Eau Claire locations, Jazz Crawl venues, and an exciting upcoming project with the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation.
Domerchie is also working to gather information on all of the region’s outdoor assets – from trails, campsites, and parks to activities and gear outfitters – and to put it all in one place. “I’m going to have it all mapped out so there’s one hub of information that people can go to to plan their outdoor adventures,” she said.
She is also collaborating with the Rural Partners Network, a federally funded effort to connect rural areas to resources they wouldn’t normally have. Through that network, representatives across seven counties have identified a wish list of improvements, such as expanding trails and resurfacing existing ones. “The main goal is to develop, define, and market our region as a five-star outdoor rec destination,” she said.
Having a full-time advocate for the area’s outdoor amenities helps Visit Eau Claire better promote these assets, Executive Director Benny Anderson said. He noted that when the pandemic hit in 2020, outdoor recreation was one of the few things Visit Eau Claire could safely promote (the others being outdoor dining and public art). “I think our area had taken for granted these items for a while,” Anderson said. “When the world reopened and everything came back, we committed to making sure that these things that kept us relevant continued to get support and not be taken for granted again.”
Anderson said Domerchie can both create interactive maps and other resources to help connect visitors with recreational information, as well as identify sources of funding that can be used to expand outdoor assets.
Visit Eau Claire hopes to make an economic impact by more extensively promoting outdoor recreation in the same way it has boosted tourism by attracting and promoting sports tournaments, Anderson said. “Outdoor recreation has slightly different audiences and infrastructure needs,” he said. “but it provides one of the leading motivators in talent attraction. … People choose the places they want to live based on the community and the things they are interested in, and the jobs now have to follow them. We're beautifully set up for that!”
Domerchie said the region’s top assets include its existing trail system – like trails for road biking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing – and added that the Valley could benefit from further development of its waterways, such as by creating whitewater rafting opportunities.
Among her priorities is finding ways to attract outdoor-loving visitors to Eau Claire’s other experiences.
“We want to have outdoor recreation assets for people to come to our region to explore but also connecting them to our city center,” Domerchie said. “We want them to explore downtown Eau Claire also” – perhaps by creating ways to get visitors downtown even if they’re on bikes, snowmobiles, or ATVs.
“We have so many assets,” she said. “That’s actually one of our biggest strengths and one of our biggest weaknesses, because we have so much opportunity and assets that already exist. It’s just a huge project to undertake.”
Learn more about Visit Eau Claire and its efforts to promote the region at visiteauclaire.com.