ASCI, Deep Creek Lake, Announces Lower Rates For Local Residents

Whitewater rafting on Garrett County’s – and the world’s – only mountaintop river park is open to local residents every Monday for only $25 per person, according to Suzanne Nicolas, event coordinator at the Adventure Sports Center International.

To take advantage of the special offer, residents need proof of residence with an ID or tax bill, Nicolas said.

By adjusting water flow from the pump house – and with the flip of a switch – ASCI course operators can move adjustable plates underneath the artificial river and generate waves up to four-feet tall. “But the course is also as much for beginners as advanced paddlers,” said Michael Logsdon, ASCI’s acting executive director. “So we have features to modify the channel and affect the water horizontally and vertically.”

ASCI’s 1700-ft long whitewater course and its 550-acre Fork Run Recreational Area, for climbing, hiking and biking, is now in its sixth season atop Marsh Mountain in McHenry.

So far this year, ASCI has welcomed a record crowd for its Memorial Day weekend All-American Whitewater Festival and “overwhelming support” from local restaurants and businesses for last weekend’s gathering of Wounded Warriors in conjunction with Team River Runner Rendezvous, Logsdon said.

ASCI will be the site Saturday, June 16, for the Mud Dog Run, a high intensity 5k obstacle run for competitors in two categories: a competitive pack departing at 10 a.m. and general packs leaving every 30 minutes after. For ticket and race information, visit http://www.clickitevents.com/mud-dog-run.html/. After the event, the whitewater course will be available for rafting, kayaking, duckies and riverboards. ASCI will also be the start and finish for the Gran Fondo bike ride on June 23.

The Adventures Sports Center International is a not-for-profit, 501 © charitable organization formed to promote adventure tourism and healthy outdoor lifestyles. The center has taken more than 55,000 people rafting since it opened in 2007. Programs are designed for groups and individuals of all skill levels and backgrounds.

For more information about ASCI programs and reservations, please call 301-387-3250, email asci@adventuresportscenter.com or visit www.adventuresportscenter.com

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Youghiogheny corridor is a treasure for all

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News Fri Sep 24, 2010, 08:00 AM EDT

— In regard to the recent article by Times-News reporter Megan Miller titled “Whitewater Woes in Friendsville,” I would like to point out some missed points in both the original article and the response by Matt Ackerman.

First of all, I am a resident of Winchester, Va., but have a vacation home in Garrett County primarily due its proximity to whitewater recreation. This area (Western Maryland, northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania) is known not only nationwide, but also worldwide as one of the most desirable locations to visit and live for whitewater enthusiasts. With the variety of rivers from the mild Middle Youghigheney to the technical Blackwater to the challenging Upper Youghiogheney to the powerful Cheat to the great training grounds of ASCI (Adventure Sport Center International) this area has rivers and training facilities for every type paddler and should embrace the tourism or other areas such as central West Virginia or western North Carolina will claim those dollars.

I understand the frustration of the few bad apples who cause problems in town and have personally called out several on occasion. Undressing in a small town is simply unacceptable, especially when Wilderness Voyagers allows free use of their changing rooms at the take-out. In addition, trespassing and not respecting the locals’ property is just plain stupid. Again, these actions are taken by a very small minority.

When you look at the demographics of those kayaking the Upper Yough, it becomes very clear that this is an older, more experienced crowd than you will find on many other rivers. With older paddlers comes, in most instances, higher income and the ability to have a greater positive impact on the local economy. Many of these boaters also bring their families and rent, or buy, local cabins in the Deep Creek area so the kids can play while Mom and Dad do as well.

Focusing in on the economic impact of the rafting companies, Vernon Sines states that local businesses do not see an economic impact and that outfitters do not buy from local stores. This is simply not true. Does he think that the rafting companies (Roger at Precision Rafting for instance … himself a local resident) go out of their way to buy all of their supplies from far away locations? No, they buy groceries where he buys his groceries.

I do agree, however, that Garrett County should split the $20,000 amusement tax with Friendsville at the very least. The only negative impact the boating has on Garrett County would be an increase in road use from the put-in to the take-out.

The boater put-in is entirely funded and maintained by American Whitewater and is in no way affiliated with or funded by Garrett County. Friendsville, on the other hand, has to absorb all of the cars, traffic and hassle with the only impact being their smaller amount paid — it must be pointed out — on a voluntary basis from the outfitters (rafting companies).

Therefore, the real focus for Friendsville should be on obtaining a large portion, if not all, of the Garrett County amusement tax instead of looking the gift horse of whitewater recreation in the mouth. The Yough corridor is a treasure for fishermen, boaters, hikers (the train leading up the river from Friendsville would be an awesome rails to trails project!), and hunters.

Let’s all work together to make Friendsville not only a great place to live for the full-time residents, but also a world renowned place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts.

Mark Hoyle

Oakland and

Winchester, Va.

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Whitewater woes in Friendsville

Residents say ‘river rats’ use parking, amenities, but tax funds do not go to town
Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News Mon Sep 13, 2010, 08:08 AM EDT

— FRIENDSVILLE — The raging rapids of the Upper Youghiogheny River draw throngs of whitewater enthusiasts to Friendsville each year, in a season lasting from April to October.

In recent years the number of annual visitors converging on the town has skyrocketed. In 2000, the companies that guide and outfit Upper Yough river-goers reported 959 rafts of customers to the state. In 2009, the total reported raft count was 1,363.

An even more dramatic increase appears to be under way since 2009. That year, the outfitters reported 3,743 individual clients. Just one year earlier, the outfitters tallied barely more than 3,000 clients.

Those figures don’t include the number of private kayakers and boaters who run the river with their own equipment. Friendsville Mayor Spencer Schlosnagle estimated that count to be at least half the number going through the outfitters.

On its face, the increase in tourist traffic might seem like a boon for the small mountain town. But that depends on whom you ask.

Vernon Sines has been the owner and operator of the S&S Market on Maple Street for 30 years. He’s seen the impact of river visitors in many ways, but a boost for his business isn’t one of them.

“No, no, we sure don’t see that,” Sines said. “That’s for sure.”

Most of the whitewater outfitters, Sines pointed out, hold cookouts or otherwise supply food to their clients, which means visitors only in town for one day aren’t buying from local stores.

“They don’t do a whole lot (for local businesses), really,” he said. “It’s more of an aggravation, of them parking and changing clothes wherever and walking up the middle of the road.”

While the locals’ frustration over out-of-towners’ behavior is a longstanding issue, the Upper Yough’s recent popularity boom has newly irritated the old wound.

Residents report out-of-towners living out of their vehicles in the streets, drinking in public and changing clothes in the open or in private garages and sheds.

And the influx of visitors can bring as many as 150 additional cars into the town, with no parking area big enough to accommodate them all.

“It became exponential this year, with boaters parking in residential parts of the town,” said Jess Whittemore, a 30-year resident of the area and Town Council member.

Whittemore, himself a “river rat,” said he sees recreational boating as a “fantastic” economic opportunity for the town, if it’s handled correctly.

“If you step back and look at it, it’s just a lot of wallets walking into town. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of wallets,” he said. “What small town of 600 people doesn’t want that?”

But as Whittemore and other town officials point out, it’s not the municipality that’s currently cashing in on the Upper Yough. It’s county government.

Maryland assesses a 4.5 percent amusement tax on top of the fees clients pay to the whitewater outfitters. The state hands those dollars over to the county, because the spot where boaters put in to run the Yough is at Sang Run, outside the Friendsville limits.

Schlosnagle estimated that the county is taking in about $20,000 per year from the Upper Yough amusement tax, while Friendsville is getting approximately $800 per year in what amounts to voluntary contributions from some outfitters for use of the town’s public take-out area.

So on Aug. 24, Schlosnagle, Whittemore and the rest of the council went before the Garrett County Commission to ask for a piece of the amusement tax revenue.

“People come into our town and park their vehicles in our town,” Schlosnagle told the commission. “They’re shuttled up to Sang Run and float down to the town. … We feel we should get some portion of the money that comes to the county.”

The commission has taken their comments under advisement and is examining what can be done, according to County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt.

In the meeting, the commissioners steered the conversation away from tax dollars and in the direction of supplying more parking restriction signs to the town.

But Schlosnagle said more signs aren’t the answer. For one thing, the town has no money to hire even a part-time enforcement officer to make sure people are abiding by the restrictions.

“These really are opportunities,” commission President Ernie Gregg told the Friendsville council members. “From the time all this started, way back when, a lot of the local people disdained the river rats. But their money is green like anybody else’s and we need to … find a way to make this work.”

Agnes Lichtner runs the Riverside Hotel on Water Street. Lichtner, too, said she views the influx of visitors as a positive thing.

“When we see traffic, that’s business,” she said. “You have to grasp that opportunity.”

She acknowledged that few boaters stay overnight at the historic hotel, but said they often come in for meals in its restaurant.

“We have dinners that we serve, and they’re one of our No. 1 supporters,” she said. “When they come off the river they eat here, more than what the fishermen do.”

Whittemore said the number of problems with boaters has decreased since the organization American Whitewater stepped in and began putting the word out to the boating community to be more considerate while in Friendsville.

The town is also drafting a camping ordinance so that law enforcement can legally control nuisance camping on the streets or town property.

He hopes that new approaches to river visitors, with the help of redirected amusement tax dollars, will help locals embrace the tourism and recreation industry.

“Coal mining and timbering is a long-gone natural resource of our whole area, and this is the new resource,” he said. “It’s here, it’s never going to go away, which means the kayakers are never going to go away. The wallets are going to continue to walk into town.”

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Rafting Boom Has Pros, Cons For Friendsville

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Aug. 26, 2010

Outdoor enthusiasts are flocking to Friendsville to enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Youghiogheny River. The town’s mayor and council met with the Garrett County commissioners on Tuesday to discuss the positive and negative aspects of this issue.

“Friendsville is very fortunate to have the Youghiogheny River flowing through our town,” Mayor Spencer Schlosnagle told the commissioners. “And over the years it’s continued to grow, as far as the whitewater rafters who come into the county in spring, summer, and early fall.”

He said that is a “good” problem, but it is also a problem that needs to be addressed.

The mayor noted that the Maryland Department of the Environment recently allowed rafters to be on the Yough on Saturdays, in addition to Fridays and Mondays. This allowance, coupled with low water levels on other rivers and the recent growth of rafting, means that hundreds of people are now pouring to Friendsville on weekends.

Local rafting companies reported they have more than 3,700 whitewater customers per year, according to Schlosnagle. The mayor stressed however, that this figure does not include numerous other kayakers and rafters who enter the Yough and other area streams on their own.
While this should be an economic boon to the town, it receives little of the county’s 4.5 percent admissions and amusement tax that rafting companies collect from their customers. That is because the official “put-in” or access site to the Yough River is located in the Sang Run area, which is several miles up stream from Friendsville. Rafters and kayakers park in the town, ride in company or private shuttle vehicles up to the put-in site, raft/kayak down the Yough, and get out of the river anywhere they can in Friendsville, rather than traveling another 30 minutes to a take-out point at the community park.

Read the rest here.

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