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.