Maggie Valley wants to know: what should its future hold?Written by Caitlin Bowling
Business owners needs to put aside their bickering and resentments for the good of Maggie Valley, Mayor Ron DeSimone emphasized last week.
“This community has been divided for a long time,” DeSimone said at a Maggie Chamber of Commerce meeting last Tuesday. “We need a united voice. We need to come together.”
A builder and architect by trade, DeSimone likes to have a plan, but he said he needs help to make a comprehensive business plan for Maggie Valley.
“I’ve created a business plan for my business but not for a whole valley,” DeSimone said. “All I am asking for is a little of your time.”
With help from the Southwestern Commission, Maggie Valley received a $20,000 grant from the North Carolina Rural Center to develop such a plan for the valley. The commission also pointed the town to Craig Madison, the former president and CEO of the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa. Madison, along with Maggie leaders, will travel from business to business talking to people about what they want for the valley.
Input from business owners will be the heart of the plan, DeSimone said.
“This is their plan. It belongs to the valley,” DeSimone said. “We are here to get it started.”
Madison will also be involved in crafting an economic development plan that will create a unique identity for the town, set goals for the valley, quantitatively measure growth and, most importantly, give Maggie a singular, cohesive vision.
“Something that tells us if we are on the right path,” DeSimone said.
Maggie Valley was hit hard by the recession and has been criticized in the past for pinning all its hopes and dreams on Ghost Town in the Sky, a once-popular amusement park, which like the valley fell into decline. The park was in foreclosure for a few years before longtime resident Alaska Presley bought Ghost Town and vowed to revive it.
But, people cannot expect her to save Maggie and must find some other baskets to put their eggs in, DeSimone said.
“Alaska can’t do this by herself. She can’t carry the valley,” DeSimone said.
Presley was on hand at the meeting to update attendees on the amusement park, which she hopes to re-open around July 1. Presley will only open the first of the park’s three levels. The lowest level will include a zipline and refurbished versions of some of Ghost Town’s original rides.
“The progress there is good,” Presley said. “There is enough that people would enjoy it.”
The chair lift that takes visitors up the mountain to the park is nearly fixed, and work will soon begin on the incline railway, another mode of transportation up the mountainside. However, the railway will take at least five months to fix. Work has also begun on the zipline.
Workers are still in the process of digging wells to meet Ghost Town’s water supply needs and then will need to redo the park’s plumbing, which was damaged during the seasonal freeze and thaw. However, come hell or high water, Presley is confident that the mountain will re-open by mid-summer and that she will slowly be able to restore the other two levels of the park, which will feature an Old West Town and religious-themed elements.