Friday, January 27, 2012

Watauga County and Recreation Development

This morning at 8 a.m., the Watauga County Commission held a special called meeting to consider supporting the Tourism Development Authority's (TDA) plan and grant application for two river-access points on the New River at Pine Run Road and at the Green Valley Park. This special meeting of the Commission followed close on a special public hearing last night conducted by the TDA to gather public comment on the plan to improve recreation infrastructure in Watauga County.

At the public hearing last night, we heard 95% support for the two river access developments. We would score that at 100% support, except that a couple of adjacent property-owners at the Pine Run Road access expressed some reservations -- worries -- about parking, obstructions to their properties, and the prospect of more litter ... all of which the TDA promised to deal with. And the property-owners appeared placated.

At the Commission meeting this morning, with two commissioners absent, the remaining three commissioners voted unanimously to support and endorse the TDA grant application for some $75,000 in outside funding for the projects, with about $18,000 in "matching" funds from the TDA.

End of story?

Not really. Why these special called meetings? Because the new Republican majority on the County Commission insisted on them, and their coolness to continued development of recreation infrastructure in the county is a matter of record. As soon as the new majority took charge in December of 2010, they began quietly replacing members of the TDA board with people who vote consistently to shut down Watauga County for recreational development.

Case in point: At their Nov. 15, 2011, meeting, with a couple of progressive votes on the TDA absent, the remaining members of the TDA board voted not to reauthorize TDA matching funds for another grant application to the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund to acquire conservation easements for extending the greenway from Brookshire Park further down the New River toward Todd. The new appointees to the TDA Board didn't even want to apply for outside funding in the form of a grant.

TDA matching funds: To date, the planners at TDA have been very successful at applying for and receiving over $900,000 in grants for infrastructure, most of which require some "cash match," usually a small fraction of the total, from the grantee (for example, the $18,000 "match" from the TDA reference above). These many successful grants are behind the development of the new Rocky Knob bike-and-hiking park, as well as many other improvements.

The TDA raises its money from an occupancy tax on visitor lodging -- motels, beds-and-breakfast establishments, etc., so it's non-residents who have really funded the "match" for our recreation development. Little comes from the regular Watauga County budget.

But that "little" is under assault, and the vision of improving the local economy by making Watauga County an outdoor recreation destination is imperiled. Though we passed through a gauntlet this morning, reappointments of key persons on the TDA board are upcoming, and the future is very much in doubt.


Anonymous said...

They are appointing Tea Party people to boards and commissions. These people only know one word: "NO." That's NO to everything, no matter what it is. They have only one vision for the County: take it back to the 50's. They do not believe in public education, educational opportunity, ownership of public property, regulatory controls on clean water/air. They are a disaster for our county and our country.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the county commissioners will cut the county tax money going to Boone and Blowing Rock. The people that wanted to support criminals over regular people by not letting CCW permit holders have the best way to protect themselves and their families (carrying a handgun) in parks made a big deal out of the "outsiders tellign BR what to do. Most of the people that they called outsiders really lived in town, but as a county resident I don't want any of my county tax money going to these municipalities.

I know they live in the county too, but if I am an unwanted outsider whose opinion doesn't matter, then they can fend for themselves when it comes to paying for things that benefit mainly town residents.

Anonymous said...

Are some of you under the impression that "grant money" is somehow just free money that appears from nowhere? It's TAX dollars ...taken from the citizens by the federal government and doled back in the form of grants.

News flash! There is NO SANTA CLAUS!

Anonymous said...

Thank you to those commissioners who refused to sign a grant application claiming that a public meeting had been held but instead insisted on ACTUALLY holding that public meeting!

Anonymous said...

Good idea...let's refuse to apply for grants...That will end the grant program, right? will be spent in another county that cares for improving their econony. Short sighted indeed.

Judith said...

These same commissioners threw out the 5-year plan for additional greenway from Brookshire Park over towards Roby Greene. That's after most of the easements had been negotiated. Anonymous above is right--no, no, no.

Someone is going to get the grant money. Why shouldn't it be Watauga?

As for guns in Boone and Blowing Rock parks, it's clear the people who live there didn't want them. That's why Soucek ran for the hills at the meeting--h didn't want to stand on principle when so many people opposed his "vision."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, yer right anon. Let's grab all the free stuff we can! No matter if the country goes broke as long as we get our share of "freebies".

At some point the madness must stop! "Get mine before someone else gets it" seems to be the way we think these days!

G.I.G said...

Welcome to Watauga county, The criminals choice for fine recreation and victimization.

Anonymous said...

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked:

Anonymous said...

Do any of you realize that if the county builds something with grant money, then it has to maintain it with county taxes?

Apparently not.

brotherdoc said...

Tourists spend money in Watauga Co. Really, except for the university, there's not much else left in the way of employment opportunity now that the global corporate overlords can eke a few more $ of profit from exporting manufacturing jobs overseas (and the kraut fatory has been closed for decades). Most tourists come here for relaxation, like strolling in quiet and peaceful parks with their kids, free from the threat of pistol packin' paranoids looking for a terrorist behind every tree. They enjoy access to our beautiful watercourses, they would like nice long hikes along a greenway. They spend $ on lodging, restaurants, shopping, and tell their friends what good times they had, so the word is spreads. Doctrinaire rightwingers need to get a life and appreciate what the story is around here.

Anonymous said...

So, brotherdoc, are you saying we need to quit kissing tourist's butts for minimum wage and get some decent paying manufacturing jobs in the county? Good idea.


Perhaps we could move beyond the idealogical polar opposites that thwarts this country at all levels of government? That said...'TAX' is not a dirty word. Its existence is not a threat to anyone's freedom. Guns in parks is just daft.