Garrett had only growth in Maryland tourism during pandemic

The Garrett County Republican

McHENRY — While Garrett County has experienced a boom in tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, the rest of Maryland is struggling to recover.

While the state’s tourism industry as a whole experienced a 64% decline during the pandemic, Garrett County actually posted a 36% increase from pre-pandemic levels, according to Liz Fitzsimmons, managing director of the Office of Tourism for the Department of Commerce.

“Garrett County was the anomaly,” Fitzsimmons said. “The only region, the only county that was able to do this.”

In 27 years with the Office of Tourism, Fitzsimmons said the Office of Tourism never had to go before any group and say that there were decreases. That changed in 2020, when the industry was dealt a severe blow.

Sales figures for overnight stays in hotels, motels and rental units are key indicators of the state of tourism, she said, as those visitors spend money in other areas, such as food, entertainment, recreational activities and retail items.

For the category of hotels, motels, apartments and cottages, sales figures for the 2021 fiscal year totaled $56.05 million — a 56% drop from pre-pandemic 2019’s $128.6 million. For hotels and motels selling food, the results were even worse: from $35.4 million in 2019 to $10.7 million in 2021. That constitutes a 69.7% drop.

The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual tourism update Tuesday morning at its Business Before Hours meeting, hearing from state officials just how hard the pandemic hit Maryland recreation.

“I last attended this meeting two years ago,” said Tom Riford, assistant secretary of the Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film & the Arts. “What a different world it was two years ago to today. Just totally, totally different.”

Riford said tourism is the fourth-largest industry in the state, employing people, providing tax revenue and helping the quality of life.

“Maryland’s tourism industry was especially hard-hit in March of 2020. And the last 20 months has seen the tourism industry working together to move forward to get to the other side,” he said. “I’m very proud of what was accomplished in this county in 2020, and in 2021. You led the state.”

The Wisp Resort’s ski school in 2021 had its best year since it opened in 1955, he said.

In continuing with the Autumn Glory Festival through the pandemic, Garrett County “has shown many other jurisdictions that it can move forward, and move toward a positive tomorrow,” Riford said.

Garrett County’s accommodation sales would have been even higher, but Gov. Larry Hogan had ordered the closing of hotels and motels at the start of the outbreak. When they were allowed to reopen, rooms and houses throughout the Deep Creek Lake area were rented almost immediately. Many were people who were seeking to leave areas of Maryland and Virginia that were experiencing early rises in COVID-19 cases.

That has spilled over into the Garrett County real estate market, where home sales have been strong for months, with houses now averaging $431,461.

However, those same eager visitors now have other options, Fitzsimmons said, with borders reopening and international travel now possible.

Six of the 10 richest counties in the United States are located in Northern Virginia, she said, and those are the customers that Garrett County needs to continue to attract — even as options such as Europe are now available again.

“They are the people who helped drive these increases,” Fitzsimmons said, encouraging business owners to reach out and continue to develop the relationships they’ve developed with visitors during the pandemic.

Deep Creek Lake Water Levels for the Winter 2021/2022

Garrett County Government

Brookfield Hydroelectric facility has agreed to lower the Deep Creek Lake water levels near the lower end of the “Rule Band” for several month during this winter. The lower rule band lake level for December and January is set at 2,455 feet.The lower lake levels during the winter months will have the following benefits:

  • allow Garrett County Department of Public Works – Public Utilities Division to install pipes for the McHenry to Thayerville water connection project,
  • provide opportunities for lake property owners to conduct maintenance on shoreline stabilization projects,
  • potentially reduce nuisance or invasive submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in shallow habitats by exposing the plants to freezing temperature.

Deep Creek Lake Rule Band for monthly water levelsInformation on the Deep Creek Lake water level “Rule Band” can be found at the following Department of the Environment website: https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/water/water_supply/pages/deepcreeklake.aspxand on the Department of Natural Resources website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/pprp/Pages/DeepCreek/results.aspx

Outdoors Maryland Set to Return for its 33rd Season on Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Southern Maryland News Net

Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) award-winning original series Outdoors Maryland returns for its 33rd season on Tuesday, November 9 with four new half-hour episodes airing throughout the month. Produced in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Outdoors Maryland presents thought-provoking stories that capture the state’s beauty as well as its diverse collection of ecosystems, people, and places.

Outdoors Maryland airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. on MPT-HD and via MPT’s livestream at mpt.org/livestream. Episodes are also available to stream on-demand at video.mpt.tv and on mobile devices via the PBS Video App.

Segments premiering during the November 9 episode are:

  • A Family Affair (Dorchester County): Eastern Shore trapper Justin Aaron demonstrates the long legacy of muskrat trapping in his family as they prepare for the 2020 National Outdoors Show, a celebration of survival skills and crafts. DNR biologist Donald Webster outlines the trapping program in Maryland and educates viewers on the lifecycle and habits of muskrats.
  • Feel the Burn (Allegany County): For the first time in decades, fire is being used for forest management at the Sideling Hill Creek Nature Preserve in Little Orleans. With eyes towards the future, DNR and Nature Conservancy experts observe and share the ecological benefits of the introduction of flames to the landscape just months after a carefully controlled burn.

New segments airing on November 16 are:

  • A Much Anticipated Emergence (statewide): Millions of cicadas took to the skies of Maryland and the East Coast during the spring of 2021. University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp and Baltimore artist Michael Brown, creator of Cicada Parade-a, offer their unique takes on the Brood X spawning through science and art.
  • To Catch a Catfish (St. Mary’s County): The invasive blue catfish is threatening the delicate balance of life in the Chesapeake. While DNR researchers work alongside the U.S. Geological Survey in tracking these fish to manage their population, officials are encouraging greater fishing of the invasive species to help curb its rise.
  • An Epoch Unearthing (St. Mary’s County, Calvert County): Dr. Stephen Godfrey from the Calvert Marine Museum has discovered several fossils of ancient marine life in the area of Calvert Cliffs, hinting at a different Chesapeake than people know today. Meanwhile, in Laurel’s Dinosaur Park, paleontologist JP Hodnett has uncovered the fossil-rich area’s latest find: Astrodon, Maryland’s State Dinosaur.

Segments premiering during the November 23 episode are:

  • Off the Beaten Path (Garrett County): Designed with both recreation and stewardship in mind, the newly formed Wolf Den Run State Park has breathed new life into a swath of land affected by mining and logging. Off-road vehicles are encouraged on the trails while other areas are cordoned off so certain species – such as the endangered Allegheny Woodrat – can return.
  • A Fledgling Enterprise (statewide): As the arrival of an exotic bird – the Painted Bunting – excites birders and scientists with its colorful plumage, it sparks conversation about the future. As rising sea levels and temperatures cause birds to change their nesting and migration habits, the Maryland Bird Atlas – a years-long effort that enlists bird watchers as citizen scientists – aims to catalogue the state’s avian population.
  • Iron Mountain (Frederick County): Adjacent to picturesque Cunningham Falls State Park lies the ruins of a booming iron foundry called Catoctin Furnace. The furnace heavily employed the use of slave labor and has now become a landmark for preserving Black history. Through research, historians understand more of the culture brought by enslaved Africans and have even reconstructed the visage of some of those who were buried on the property.

The fourth new episode of the 33rd season, airing Nov. 30, will feature fan-favorite classic content including profiles of landscape painter Kevin Fitzgerald and photographer David Harp as well as students raising horseshoe crabs in their classrooms.

In January 2022, Outdoors Maryland will deliver two more new episodes highlighting topics from the mysterious Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay to the continent-spanning migration of birds and more.

Since debuting in 1988, MPT has produced more than 700 Outdoors Maryland stories on topics ranging from science-oriented environmental issues to segments about unusual people, animals, and places around the state. The series has earned more than 50 awards over more than 30 years of production, including several Emmy® Awards from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Taylor, Lewis compete at state golf tournament

The Garrett County Republican

COLLEGE PARK — Northern senior Chase Taylor and Southern freshman Hank Lewis both battled valiantly through substandard weather conditions on Tuesday, but the two fell just short of making it to the Day 2 of the Maryland state golf championships.

The state golf tournament began on Tuesday and was held at the University of Maryland in College Park. Though both Taylor and Lewis were both eliminated, they each had strong starts as they were both above the cutoff line at one point during the back nine.

Taylor finished 15-over (86) to tie for 31st. For him, it was the stretch from holes No. 12-18 that were his undoing.

“The conditions were pretty tough out there, and I’m just not used to hitting off Bermuda grass,” said Taylor. “I finished off so bad. I think I finished double, double, bogie, triple, double on the last five holes. It was a mess. I just blew up.

“It was just the small stuff that I was messing up. I just couldn’t hit an iron, really that’s just all there is to it. If I hit a fairway, I wouldn’t hit a green. I was chunking everything. The ground’s wet and it’s Bermuda grass, so I was just deep swinging and catching everything fat.”

The senior had made it to states when he posted a 79 at the west regionals a month ago.

“I’m really glad I got to come here in the first place; it’s awesome,” Taylor said. “The course is really nice.It’s in good shape too besides it being wet today. I’m really glad I got to come here and play, it was fun.”

Lewis finished just behind Taylor by going 16-over (87) and also had a rough time down the stretch as he double bogeyed two of his last five holes.

“I played OK. I could’ve done a lot better,” Lewis said. “Wind, just specifically the swirling of the wind, I didn’t know what club to hit at times. I couldn’t really make a decision.

“It’s a learning experience. I want to improve everything about my game. … It’s an honor to be with seniors (Taylor and Darian Bauer). Darian’s the best in the region, so it’s an honor to be here with them as a freshman.”

Bauer, the senior from Allegany, won the 1A/2A regional title and advanced to Day 2 on Wednesday.

The top 40% of individual male and female competitors advanced to the Day 2 Finals, as well as those who tied with the cutoff score.