Rep. Presnell should listen to the majority of Haywood constituents

Jan 13, 2014

For decades, tourism in Haywood County has been driven primarily by our proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Lodging and meal options are limited at both national park sites, so neighboring counties are often the happenstance place visitors end up.

What’s lacking in the county is a variety of big-ticket draws that would specifically attract tourists to Haywood.

Consider this. If Camp Hope had developed picnic sites and trails on the 100-plus acres of property with several miles of stream access to the East Fork of the Pigeon River, just think how many visitors it could draw from the Parkway.

What if Maggie Valley had another attraction to augment the Wheels Through Time Musuem and Cataloochee Ski Area, such as the skating rink envisioned by town leaders to build upon the winter tourism industry?

While the national parks draw national and international visitors, communities have found much-needed economic boosts from sports league tournaments that attract hundreds of overnight visitors — and plenty of hungry players and fans. What if those players and fans had an outdoor swimming pool with plenty of water features to cool off in between games?

These type of projects have been relegated to the “dream” list, however, because funds simply aren’t available to develop them.

That could all change if a measure passes the N.C. General Assembly that allows the tax on overnight accommodations to be raised by 2 percent, something that would cost those staying in hotels, motels or vacation rentals about $1.50 a night for a moderately-priced room.

It’s not an amount likely to drive a price-shopping visitor to an adjoining county, but it does create a funding pool that could be used to make Haywood a more desirable place to visit.

Moreover, the amenities would create jobs and boost our overall economy during times when new manufacturing positions are a distant hope and high-tech jobs gravitate toward urban hubs.

The dream of a future with more jobs, an increased number of visitors and fun places to go that will benefit local residents, as well, is within reach. The challenge is to convince a lone legislator from Burnsville, Rep. Michele Presnell, that Haywood County residents are completely capable of building a better future through increased tourism. All we need is a single change in a law that already funds tourist promotion efforts in Haywood.

This change is about local control, a local dream and local prosperity. Haywood County elected leaders are virtually unanimous in their support for this measure, but unfortunately, these voices have gone unheeded to date.

It’s time for Haywood County residents to awake from their slumber and let Rep. Presnell know where they stand. If your child is involved in youth sports and you'd like a chance to stay at home for a tournament every once in a while, send a email.

If you support your local leaders in their quest to make their towns the best they can be, send an email. Be sure to send a copy to the rest of the legislative delegation, which is already behind the effort. This simple action could make a difference in your future, and the future of generations to come.

It is time to think big and take steps toward self-sufficiency on this issue. All we need is for the state of North Carolina to get out of our way.


How to contact your legislators:

Sen. Jim Davis

District: 50

37 Georgia  Road, Franklin, NC 28734

Phone: (828)342-4483

Rep. Michele Presnell

District: 119

316 Woodstock Dr., Burnsville, NC 28714

Phone:  828-682-6342

Rep. Joe Sam Queen

District: 119

209 Hillview Circle, Waynesville, NC 28786

Phone  — 828-452-4286