Ghost Town in the Sky did not open to much fanfare last weekend because, simply put, it didn’t open.
Maggie Valley’s slow and steady decline as a tourist destination comes down to aesthetics, a consultant hired to assess Maggie Valley’s economic challenges told town leaders last week.
Maggie Valley’s appearance has declined and not kept up with the more sophisticated tastes of today’s tourists, according to his assessment.
Since the advent of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, tourists flocking to Bryson City and Dillsboro to ride the scenic passenger train have been the envy of neighboring communities.
Haywood leaders are no strangers to overhauling their economic development strategy and structure.
A major transformation played out just 10 years ago. When the dust settled on the politically charged process, the economic development director resigned.
An exploratory committee of Haywood County business leaders will examine in the coming months whether to reshuffle the county’s economic development arm for the second time in a decade.
Alice Aumen, one of the owners of Cataloochee Ranch and a longtime tourism booster in Haywood County and Western North Carolina, hit the nail on the head: “It’s a vision problem.”
She was referring to the decision by Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, not to support the proposed room tax hike for Haywood County because a small, vocal contingent of lodging owners and two town aldermen in Maggie Valley came out against it. Because everyone in Haywood would not support the hike, Davis allowed it to die in committee. That means hundreds of thousands of dollars for tourism-related capital projects will not find its way to Haywood County.
Even though an “overwhelming majority” of community leaders in Haywood County support a lodging tax increase, a state bill that would have done just that died in the state legislature last week.
The Haywood County historic courthouse in Waynesville will be completely re-landscaped by the end of this week, just in time for the official launch of the summer tourist season marked by Memorial Day weekend.
The county cut down all the large sugar maple trees from the courthouse lawn over the winter, and it has been barren ever since. The new landscape design calls for smaller trees and fewer of them.
The new trees will be planted in the nick of time for the first downtown street festival of the year this Saturday, although the lawn itself will take longer to restore.
Last week, county maintenance employees planted six Kousa Dogwood trees along the Depot Street side of the courthouse and a sugar maple on the right side of the historic courthouse, between it and the new justice center.
The remaining plantings — two Yoshino Cherries, a Serbian spruce and a few shrubs —should be delivered by Wednesday (May 22 and promptly put in the ground.
“We will be ready to go,” said Dale Burris, county facilities and maintenance director. “It’s a simple fact of digging a hole and putting it in correctly.”
— By Caitlin Bowling
Financial challenges faced by rural hospitals show no sign of a turnaround, prompting MedWest hospital leaders to consider what was once a last resort.
MedWest hospitals are entertaining the idea of selling or merging with a larger hospital system that would bring a cash infusion to the table.
Lights, camera … Haywood County?
During the past two years, a local reality show has become a phenomenon that’s being broadcast into homes across the country and beyond. The program is “Hillbilly Blood: A Hardscrabble Life,” and it features Western North Carolina outdoor survival experts Spencer Bolejack and Eugene Runkis.