(Steve Shipley, courtesy of Youtube)
Eastern Gaston County should be excited about the opening late last winter of the US National Whitewater Center . The center is located just across the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County from the Stowe Family YMCA in Mt. Holly.
However there are more than a few folks still fussin’ about the park.
The Whitewater Center is rapidly becoming a major regional and national destination site for “outdoors people”. In July alone, over 70,000 people visited to raft, kayak, climb, and mountain bike. In late July, an international competition for teens was held. That competition was the world championships for sprint kayaking.
Several of the high school and college aged children of our Belmont and Mt. Holly neighbors have summer jobs at the Center. From all reports, it is a very busy and exciting place.
But, people are still upset that Belmont and Mt. Holly governments invested in the underwriting or “underpinning” of the non-profit organization. Over at the Gaston County Watchdog, a politically conservative rant forum, people are still angry.
What occurred was the local governments pledged funds to the park to cover any operating losses for a set number of years. Mt. Holly pledged a million dollars ($1,000, 000), Belmont pledged $500,000. Several other communities pledged funds including Gastonia and Charlotte. Everything is based on a percentage of “investment”. If the park were to operate at a loss of, let’s say, $1,000,000 in the first year, the participating cities would cover their percentage share to bring the operating account back to zero. We can’t remember the percentages of the overall participation rates, but even IF the Mt. Holly percentage would be 10%, their share would equal $100,000.
With all that being said, the center has had six months of surplus operating revenue that should balance the losses incurred when the opening was delayed by the road issue. So, it is possible that the cities may not even be called to “pony-up” for first year funding.
None of us care for increased taxes or anything that could potentially take money out of our pocket without our expressed permission. That is why we have an elected, representative government at all levels. There is too much suspicion and hand-wringing. That is not even enough to consider a $.01 addition to the property tax rate. Area towns even cut tax rates this summer due to increased property valuations.
We do have a community responsibility to share in economic development costs, and an expectation to share in its rewards. In this case, there are tourism dollars spent in Belmont and Mt. Holly. Restaurants in both towns are seeing vistors, the ABC store in Mt. Holly certainly is doing well. People have also secured summer and permanent jobs.
So why are a few making a fuss?