• By Kirk Gaw

New Poll Reveals Need For DT Walkerton Hotel

Participants of the May 2019 Walkerton Page poll have revealed the desire for lodging here. Walking in downtown Walkerton is full of so much adventure. It is the center of history and is a destination for visitors! The scenery capitulates visitors to another time. The Walkerton commercial district reflects the golden age of travel when the railroad was King. People came to Walkerton because they wanted the dream of what was then the Wild West. Pioneers invested their lives here to bring the vision alive. They came to work for the railroad, work in industry, celebrate religious freedoms, recreation, commerce, and to serve farming.

Annual events like the "Walkerton 4th of July Celebration" lures thousands of visitors to the core of the town.

Today, many highways intersect the area, and the many railways continue to tread the ties to manufacturing. Seasonal residents travel to Koontz Lake, Potato Creek, Lake Of The Woods, and Fish Lake. But, it is the strength of families and history that requires a need for accomodations in the community. Citizens are forced to keep their visitors in other nearby competing towns. During the winters, travelers must navigate the weather conditions for miles. It isn't enough that residents also yearn for a Supermarket? They also, beckon the need of decent lodging.

Our poll consisted of 32 contributors and reached nearly 3,000 members. It asked, "Recently, our members discussed, and provided local accomodations for family-style lodging. It revealed the need for Walkerton families to have room keys nearby. Once, the town was graced with several hotels including the Hotel Starr on Roosevelt. Do you support the return of a hotel to the downtown Walkerton area?"

Poll choices:

"I support lodging in the downtown Walkerton area."

Voters for this option

21 responded

"I support the local need for hoteling growing families."

Voters for this option

6 responded

"I support having new local conference banquet facilities for local business."

Voters for this option

4 responded

"I do not want to see lodging in the Walkerton area and hope they go somewhere else."

Voters for this option

1 responded

As evidenced, once again, the community has spoken about missed business opportunity for the growing families of the area. Between, Walkerton, LaPaz, Tyner, Koontz Lake, Grovertown, North Liberty, Teegarden, Kingsbury, Mill Creek, Kingsford Heights, Plymouth, and Stillwell many citizens have needs that should be met. Hopefully, this poll will inspire others to go further into the possibilities for lodging. The Walkerton area has many scenic State Parks and wilderness. There is plenty of business to support a hotel with conference and banquet space.

Walkerton has a unique history and is home to many stories about it's residents. The family's continue to celebrate it's heritage. (Photo of Water Works Industry by WAHS)

Other referencing from statistical information has shown that St. Joseph County is behind in hotel rooms and conference space. A January 2018 WNDU report indicated that tourism records were broken for the year 2017. In St. Joseph County for the first time ever, revenue from the hotel/motel tax topped $5 million ($5.2 million in 2017 compared to $4.9 million in 2016).

Saylor's End Of The Trail Riding And Rodeo is another area attraction. They provide entertainment generating tourism.

The tax is a straight six percent charge on room rentals and signals that the tourism industry here is strong.“We had four hotels open up in 2017, we’ve got three under construction in 2018,” said Rob DeCleene, Executive Director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. “So by football season we’re going to have about 5,000 hotel rooms in St. Joseph County so we’re looking at any way possible to bring new traffic to the community but, also to improve the product that we have to offer when visitors get here.”

For the first time ever, some of the revenue from the hotel/motel or Innkeeper’s Tax will be offered as grants to help finance public or private projects that will increase the number of visitors coming to the area.“Maybe this potential funding actually takes the project that was a bit of a dream project and makes it a reality because there's some funding assistance out there,” said DeCleene.

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