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Originally published: 2013-07-19 12:22:18
Last modified: 2013-07-19 18:56:21

Boone to license park to SAHA in 2014

by Anna Oakes

The Southern Appalachian Historical Association will continue its presence at the town of Boone's Daniel Boone Park property on Horn in the West Drive in 2014, but it will rent the space through a licensing agreement instead of a lease extension.

The Boone Town Council approved the new arrangement during its regular monthly meeting Thursday, town clerk Kim Brown said.

The town for years has leased the property to SAHA, which produces the outdoor drama "Horn in the West" in its amphitheater and operates the Hickory Ridge Homestead Living History Museum on the grounds as well.

In past years, SAHA has subleased the parking lot for use by the Watauga County Farmers' Market and to Appalachian State University for student parking, but ASU informed the town that it would not be renewing its sublease in 2013-14.

That represents a loss in $25,000 in annual income to SAHA, and on Tuesday SAHA Chairwoman Michelle Ligon asked the council for permission to rent the parking spaces directly.

Instead, the council on Thursday opted to manage parking rentals, agreeing to share up to $12,500 in revenue with SAHA after the town covers its own management expenses, Brown confirmed.

Councilman Andy Ball said the town will soon need to work out a licensing agreement for 2014 with the farmers' market as well, and the licensing fee will have to be negotiated, he said.

Ball said the town could consider how much of that revenue to share with SAHA, noting, "We want to support them in a big way." But he emphasized the need for SAHA to be a self-sustaining organization "with a budget that works for them."

Ligon said there are still uncertainties about a licensing agreement. She said the town wants to know specific dates for use of the property but that school groups and others may wish to come on short notice.

"None of us seem to know exactly what licensing would be like," she said.

She said the organization continues to explore fundraising opportunities but that not knowing how SAHA can use the Daniel Boone Park in the future is hampering planning efforts. She noted that it's difficult to make ends meet for outdoor dramas, adding that productions such as "Unto These Hills" and "The Lost Colony" only derive 45 to 60 percent of their operating budgets from ticket revenue.

"I think it would be a shame that 'Horn in the West' might not get the funding it needs," she said. "It's a legacy that the town of Boone and the High Country are lucky to be able to enjoy."

The council also directed the town's Cultural Resources Advisory Board and the town attorney to develop a licensing process for town properties and to develop an administrative, operational and staffing plan for that process, to be completed by July 2014.

A possible transition to a licensing system of town properties has been discussed by the council since at least April 2012.