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.

Pirates make MLB Draft special for Bethel Park’s Justin Meis

From Triblive

Justin Meis knew the Pittsburgh Pirates were interested when they continued to make calls to check in after almost every round late in the second day of the MLB Draft.

Meis was on vacation with nearly two dozen members of his family at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland when he got a call that was different, especially the greeting from Pirates area scout Anthony Wycklendt.

“The first thing he said when I answered the phone was ‘Congratulations!’ ” said Meis (pronounced “mice”). “It was an unbelievable feeling. I turned around gave a thumb’s up to my family. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

Meis, a right-handed pitcher from Bethel Park who is a junior at Eastern Michigan, was thrilled when the Pirates selected him in the 10th round (No. 283 overall) Monday afternoon. The assigned slot value for the pick is $149,500, and Meis said he plans to sign with the Pirates.

“To be honest, I don’t even know if you can put it into words,” Meis said. “It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was growing up. Now that it happened, I don’t even know what to say. It’s pretty cool.”

Getting drafted by his hometown team was the culmination of an unforgettable year for Meis, who had a moment to remember this season against eventual College World Series champion Mississippi State.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder went 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA and 1.44 WHIP and led Eastern Michigan with 81 strikeouts and 73 2/3 innings this season. Meis also pitched well in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League, where he was 1-1 with a 2.07 ERA, 17 strikeouts and three walks in 17 1/3 innings over four starts for the Cotuit Kettleers.

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Garrett County permits vacation rentals to reopen

The Garrett County Republican

OAKLAND — Garrett County officials on Thursday lifted the order that closed vacation rental properties, but with a number of restrictions and warnings.

Following Gov. Larry Hogan’s Wednesday announcement of the first phase of his reopening plan, the county commissioners voted to amend their state of emergency declaration to allow the use of rental units effective immediately.

County Health Officer Bob Stephens also rescinded his March order on the rental units.

“Garrett County has been very blessed to have low numbers of infections, and we are in fact the lowest … in the state,” Stephens told the commissioners. “We are all still at some risk. There will be new transmissions from time to time. Our goal in all of this is to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Commission Chairman Paul Edwards said the reopening of rental units comes with orders for both property owners/managers and the guests.

“The county, in consultation with the Garrett County health officer, have agreed that the order the health officer of March 27, 2020, closing all TVRU (transient vacation rental units) and vacation rental properties … is hereby rescinded, and that is subject to the provisions of the executive order and guidance of the office of legal counsel,” Edwards announced.

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Boating, Whitewater Rafting, Hiking, And More At Maryland's Largest Freshwater Lake

Garrett County is home to Maryland’s largest freshwater lake, Deep Creek Lake, and it’s one of the best ways to get out of D.C. and enjoy some much-need summertime activities.

The Deep Creek Experience is authentic adventure awaiting every member of your family. There’s everything from boating and fishing to kayaking, watertubing, wakeboarding, swimming and canoeing—so much that Budget Travel listed the Deep Creek Lake area and the town of Oakland as one of America’s Best Summer Lake Towns.

September will also see the 2014 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, but even with 65 miles of shoreline, it isn’t just about summer activities; Garrett County is host to Wisp Resort, the state’s only ski resort, making it a great way to get in your skiing, snowboarding, and snowtubing without making the trek to Vermont or beyond!

So take the three-hour trip to Garrett County for Deep Creek Lake, the state’s highest waterfall at Muddy Creek Falls, 90,000 acres of public land, and simply kick back with your loved ones on a beautiful summer weekend. Log onto visitdeepcreek.com to plan your Deep Creek experience! 

More here.

Best Weekend Getaways to Escape DC Drama

Deep Creek makes the list:

7. Deep Creek Lake – If you’re looking for a get away that will allow you to be out of cell service for 48 hours, check out Deep Creek Lake. Just two hours from DC in Garrett County, Maryland, Deep Creek is the largest freshwater lake in the state. Being out in the woods will give you a break from the city heat to swim and fish, and boat, tubing, and jet ski rentals are in abundance. The surrounding State Park is a lesser known tourist attraction so renting a house by the water shouldn’t be too difficult, and is a not too expensive option if you want to bring a gaggle of friends. Check out the Honi-Honi Bar to drink right on the bar (there’s even a boat dock to hitch your rental) plus they have karaoke on Thursdays and live music on the weekends.”