Garrett commissioners don’t expect rafting complex to be county operation for long term

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Garrett County commissioners recently met with the grand jury and indicated that they didn’t believe that it was in their best interest for Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry to remain a county operation in the long term. Commissioner Jim Raley indicated in an interview with the Times-News that he would like to see the manmade whitewater rafting complex run on a lease basis.

If an entity were to take ownership of ASCI it wouldn’t happen until sometime after Deep Creek 2014: International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Championships, which are scheduled for September, according to Raley.

Commissioner Gregan Crawford said that the county doesn’t own ASCI, but that they bought out the bank notes and is ASCI’s largest creditor.

“ASCI was a situation that was really more thrust on us. We didn’t go out and look for it,” said Crawford.

In 2012, the commissioners authorized the expenditure of $600,000 to secure the assignment of ASCI debts from Susquehanna Bank. The original debt for ASCI was $3 million, according to Chairman Robert Gatto.

“When you look at the capital investment that was made, by not only the county taxpayers but the state and some federal monies that went into the project, it had to be stabilized,” said Raley.

Crawford echoed Raley’s sentiments, noting that one of the reasons for keeping ASCI in the short term was the need to stabilize it.

“We hope to polish it up and have everything in place,” said Crawford.

ASCI is funded by multiple sources, such as federal, state and community development block grants. It is still operating in the black, has been for the past two years and sees 10,000 to 11,000 visitors per year, according to Raley. ASCI runs like an enterprise fund on revenues it brings in, similar to the county landfill, according to Crawford.

The county cut costs by looking into the number of personnel and making sure that the water was turned off when it wasn’t needed, said Raley. ASCI has 65 to 70 seasonal (May through September) employees at a cost of $267,000.

Crawford stressed the importance of Deep Creek 2014 and its future economic impact on the county.

Garrett County was awarded $1 million from the state’s capital budget for upgrades to ASCI in preparation for Deep Creek 2014. The state bond proceeds will partially fund the $2.3 million in improvements, which include design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction and capital equipping of ASCI. The project will also include upgrading telecommunications and building new and upgrading existing infrastructure and facilities. United States Department of Agriculture grants, Maryland Heritage Area grants and a local access grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will be used toward improvements, Crawford said.

An earthen amphitheater with concrete masonry walls, an open pavilion and a viewing platform will be built for the event, according to the county’s website.

An access road bridge for Deep Creek 2014 might not be ready for the event, according to Dwight Emory, P.E., director of the Garett County engineering department. The rest of the improvements are expected to be completed on time.

The event is expected to draw 35 to 40 international teams; 1,200 coaches, athletes and support staff; 30,000 spectators and is estimated to have a more than $20 million economic impact on Garrett County.

“One of the goals of 2014 is to make it (ASCI) an epicenter for adventure sports, not only on the East Coast but throughout the United States as well,” said Crawford.

Gatto said that timing of Deep Creek 2014 will help bolster the economy at a time when there is a seasonal lull.

More here.