TDA declines river access grant
by Kellen Short
The Watauga County Tourism Development Authority has declined a $75,000 grant that would have improved two New River accesses in Watauga County.
The grant would have be used to create canoe/kayak launches at the Pine Run Road bridge and Green Valley Park, as well as additional parking, informational kiosks and a walking loop at the park.
The grant, provided by the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Program in conjunction with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, would have required an $18,750 match from the TDA.
The vote Tuesday split 2-2, which equates to a vote failure, said executive director Wright Tilley.
TDA board members Tony Gray and Matt Vincent voted to accept the grant, while Kim Rogers and Connie Baird voted against, he said. The board reached quorum despite the absence of Jim Neustadt and Sonya Garland, who were unable to attend.
Tilley said some board members were concerned about the required match and about the TDA being obligated for long-term maintenance of the sites.
"It was just a difference of opinion among board members as to how they felt that the TDA dollars should be spent," he said.
Securing the grant was a lengthy process. TDA representatives sought an endorsement from county commissioners in January 2012, pitching the plan as a way to make accessing the river safer, more environmentally sound and more appealing to locals and visitors.
The Board of Commissioners originally withheld its
endorsement amid concerns that nearby property owners had not been provided enough
time to comment on the project.
Commissioners later gave approval after a public hearing in which about 20 people spoke about the proposal, most expressing support and a few voicing concerns.