The Friends of Historic Hat Creek Ranch Society (FHHCRS) AGM was held at the ranch on Feb. 17, with 16 people turning out to hear Chair Monty Downs recap the 2015 season.
He confirmed that, following a fairly substantial increase in fees in 2015, these would remain the same for 2016. Yearly fees are $27 for an adult, $24 for a senior, and $45 for a family, allowing unlimited access to the site and discounts in the gift shop and restaurant.
Downs said that 2015 was “challenging and rewarding” for the ranch, and said that one of the highlights was the completion of a new fire protection and water service last year. “We now have a significantly better fire protection system. The roadhouse is now much better protected, with alarms in each space, and the visitor reception centre now has the sprinkler system activated.” The major barns have also been equipped with rooftop sprinklers.
He also reported that late in 2015 the ranch received funding for a new gift shop space. Downs acknowledged that the current location of the gift shop—on the second floor of the visitor centre, with no elevator access—was less than ideal. “This will enable us to get the gift shop down to the ground floor level,” although whether as part of the existing visitor centre or as a separate building remains to be determined.
Don Pearse, General Manager of HHCR, said that the “covered wagon” accommodation that was built at the site last year should be two-thirds paid by the end of the 2016 season. The “wagon” sleeps four people, and Pearse calls it “a unique accommodation that’s especially popular with children.”
He also noted that bus business is changing, with many of the tour buses on a tight schedule and booking up to two years in advance. “More than 10,000 people stop here each year, but many don’t go past the restaurant and gift shop. We need to encourage people to spend more time here.” He said that the addition of a new U.S. business will bring 26 more coaches to the site in 2016.
Street traffic was up about 16% in 2015, and school business went from 5 visits in 2014 (because of the job action by teachers that closed schools early in June) to 24 in 2015. Pearse added that the school program run by Chris Linton is very popular and almost fully booked. Linton, in character as Charlotte Thompson (wife of explorer and mapmaker David Thompson), goes into classrooms and presents a series of classes. She said that she’s become so well-known as Thompson that many people address her as “Charlotte” even when she’s not in character.
Historic Hat Creek Ranch opens for the season on May 1.