A tourism group in Hudson is hoping to collect enough donations to begin offering historical tours of the city on Segways in the spring.
The two-wheeled transports, which require users to take a half-hour training course to operate, have been gaining in popularity at many attractions around the country.
But they are still relatively rare, and Liz Murphy of Destination Hudson said she hopes the thrill of riding one will add to the appeal of coming to Hudson.
“There are already walking tours in town,” Murphy said, “but a Segway makes it a little more sexy, a little more interesting to a wider base of people.”
Murphy got the idea for the special tours after taking a similar one in Raleigh, N.C.
“I would not have gone on a walking tour of Raleigh because I just wasn’t that interested,” she said. But throw in the Segway, and she was sold.
Destination Hudson was formed five years ago to promote the city’s historical and architectural assets to visitors, but consultants have warned that the volunteer group’s many ideas probably would fall by the wayside without a part-time staffer devoted to making them happen.
“This could be the project we’re looking for” to raise those funds, said Murphy, a longtime local businesswoman who sold her Learned Owl book store last year and is now paid by Destination Hudson to operate the city’s visitor center on summer weekends.
The goal is to purchase eight Segways — along with helmets and insurance — at a total cost of about $70,000.
Murphy estimated tour tickets would be about $60, with each trip made up of six visitors and two guides.
While she’s searching for grants, Murphy is also trying to appeal to local businesses, organizations and individuals to “sponsor” a glider for $7,500, which would earn them a free tour for six people once a year for 10 years and their name on one of the vehicles and in promotional material.
Murphy said one Hudson resident has agreed to pay for two Segways if the additional funding is raised.
Segway riders need to be able to stand and must weigh between 100 and 260 pounds. Children 14 or older can ride them in the company of an adult.
“Not everyone can walk for 2 to 3 miles, but as long as you have some semblance of balance, you can ride a Segway. It’s easy,” she said. “So not only would this be fabulous for Destination Hudson, to support ourselves, but it also makes the history of Hudson and this really amazing collection of original architecture open to a wider group of people.”
For now, residents might spot a couple of the silver gliders already loose on the city streets. Murphy and her husband have been using a pair on loan from the assisted-living facility Gables of Hudson.
In addition to showing them off to increase interest in the vehicles, she will use them to fine-tune a tour route, because good sidewalks and curb cuts are necessary.
She also hopes to elevate the experience by providing tourists with audio packs.
The Burton D. Morgan Foundation has awarded the group $7,000 for 30 audio packs, which Destination Hudson will receive this month. The packs can be loaned to other groups and schools interested in learning about Hudson’s history.
Murphy said she took a Segway tour of downtown Cleveland, where packs weren’t used, and there was no comparison to how much better the Raleigh tour was because it included audio devices.
“It made all the difference in the world,” she said.
Segways aren’t for everyone, however.
Western Reserve Academy historian Tom Vince, who leads tours covering Hudson’s history and architecture, said his group typically numbers 25 to 35 people — far too many to give every individual a set of wheels.
Besides, he said, “I prefer leading tours on the ground. ... I like walking with people and being in the middle of them because you hear things and you get questions.”