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Harpole’s new ATV certification could boost tourism

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PIKE COUNTY, Ill. (WGEM) -- Harpole's Heartland Lodge is now the first, and only, Polaris Certified Outfitter in the state of Illinois.

Mike Jacobs, who has worked at Harpole's Heartland Lodge for 15 years as a maintenance worker, stepped into a newly-created job as trails manager last year.

The lodge created the role as it became a Polaris Certified Outfitter for their ATV rental program and needed someone to keep the trails safe.

"You'll commonly see two generations in a family out riding, sometimes three, and everybody just enjoys themselves," Jacobs said.

Lodge Owner Gary Harpole explained why this certification is so special to not only his business, but the entire county.

"It gives us credibility. First, they see the Polaris endorsement and they know right away that it means. It's quality and it'll bring in new people to the area who want to ride," Harpole said.

The Pike County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Camphouse said the Heartland Lodge has been a big source of tourism for the area since it's known on the national level.

"Any time people visit from Chicagoland, or farther away than that, obviously they're buying gas, they're buying groceries, they're going to restaurants," Camphouse said. "Those tax dollars do stay here in Pike County benefitting our roadways and benefitting the county as a whole."

The lodge typically sees around 20,000 visitors per year, but Harpole believes their new certification will attract even more tourists.

"The rental program has brought people from, I'd say, a 68-hour radius into the area so it brings in quite a few people and it's been a huge bonus to our tourism and to our business."

The ATVs are used by guests at the lodge, but they are also available to rent for as little as two hours. Riders of any experiences are welcome.

To book a rental reservation, call Harpole's Heartland Lodge at 1 (800) 717-4868.

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Rebecca Duffy

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