On May 2, 2018 FVR President Beth Heile met with Burke County Tourism Director Ed Phillips and Visitor Relations Manager Hollie Phillips to get their take on recreation as tourism in our county.
The major stat was in 2017, 4000 people stopped in the tourism office to ask about recreation opportunities – hiking, biking, camping, kayaking. If that many people stop in to ask questions, imagine how many are just searching the Internet. They have folks come from Charlotte just to use the greenway!
Another interesting stat, in April, 53 people stopped in to talk about moving to Burke County – most were considering relocating for jobs – not retirement.
We discussed how a park like Valdese Lakeside Park would be like a golf course. Locals will use it and visitors will, too. And, that most new neighborhoods will build the amenities to then entice the homeowners. So, it does make sense to build first with the goal of attracting new residents to Valdese.
How Valdese Lakeside Park would be different from Catawba Meadows was another line of discussion. Catawba Meadows nor other parks in the county will have the combination of amenities with the views that Valdese Lakeside Park will have.
Parks in an area can be complementary and not always competitors. Having several choices of mountain biking, disc golf, hiking will be a draw for outdoor enthusiasts to visit our area and try what each park has to offer. They may spend a day at VLP mountain bike trails and then visit Lake James’ trails. If there is a disc golf tournament, area courses could be used together for starting rounds. Kayaking at Catawba Meadows with the flowing river is not the same as putting in the still water of Lake Rhodhiss.
Ed and Hollie had some suggestions on things to make sure we have:
- Permanent covered stage, possibly a heated area
- Grills at picnic tables
- Printed Map available at park
- Water bottle refill at water fountains
- Automatic people counter on trails to keep records
- Free Wi-fi
- Outlets for charging devices
- Allow CBS Sports or others to come in and rent kayaks for a day, bikes for a few hours, etc.
- For concerts, rent a 10×10 ft grassy space that will be reserved for attendees.
They asked what accommodations we have in Valdese. Beth searched and found about 4 homes in or basically in Valdese available for vacation rental.
Ed said that outdoor recreation is the country’s number two economic sector, following behind health care. With numbers like that, it looks like a sector to be a part of.