Elkins resurgence around the corner?
In my last letter, I talked about how an Elkins resurgence might be just around the corner for the city.
Yes, taxes are going to need raised in various ways to fund the plans. Yes, annexation of large retail areas seems to correspond with thriving downtowns and environs. Look at Bridgeport, look at Barboursville, need I say more. Before you say “absolutely not,” consider that we have been spoiled with relatively low taxes. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere in the U.S. with lower property taxes. For decades taxes have only gone down, down, down in this country.
In nearly all cases a “tax increase” is really a restoration of some of the previous taxes levied. Contrary to what supply siders claim, the truth is that historically, during our great times of prosperity, taxes were relatively high- look it up. Oh, you think we need to repair and/or upgrade much of our roads, bridges, utility systems? Yes, well, ok, how do you propose we pay for it? Being a fiscal conservative, I think running up more debt should not be an option. That leaves … taxation (with proper oversight as to how spent). So keep in mind the old saying “You get what you pay for.”
And yes, Elkins is going to become very attractive to young outsiders, you know the ones who talk different, drive those sporty cars with all the bumper stickers, bikes, skis, boats, what have you. These “back to the land” types say they “want to preserve Appalachian culture.” Wait a minute, maybe we’re on the same team. For a glimpse of what could come, go to Mountain State Overland season 2. After watching that, you realize, “Hey the Overland guys out there four-wheeling are pretty much like us, except for drinking all those different kinds of beer.”
It seems to come down to this: Do we want to share this area with outside folks, or just keep it to ourselves? I would submit that most folks living in this area would like to see our area become the regional attraction it has the potential to be. A lot of the younger folks living here say it could be a “little Asheville.” OK, to those out there in the “keep it to ourselves” category, let me remind you — with the influx of outsiders comes a lot of disposable income. You do want more jobs and prosperity for the area, don’t you?
So I would encourage everyone in the community to do some soul searching. Here’s a couple of possibilities to consider:
A museum. An all-encompassing museum is a must for the town. Where? I would suggest the piece of land now for sale at the far corner of the railyard, the site of the former engine roundhouse, would be superb. Rebuild on the old concrete footprint, create a pond/pool with landscaping in the big pit. Put an old engine in the recreated roundhouse.
I would strongly recommend hiring a professional landscape designer and developing a grand plan for the railyard/veteran’s park area/overpass embankment and elsewhere. How about hiring a horticulturalist like Buckhannon? Gotta admit he’s got that town looking pretty impressive.
And give it a lot of thought before slapping up some chinzy artwork on the amphitheater stage. What is placed there will be one of the indelible memories for thousands of visitors. Here needs to be your piece de resistance. I would suggest some artsy recreation of the mountain setting one sees from the town. How about the view from Halliehurst? Oh, yeah and how about a riverwalk! It could eventually go clear through town up through Riverbend Park. And a pedestrian mall downtown seems like a must-do for drawing tourists into town after their train ride.
OK, really going out on limb on this one: Remember the Forest Hills High School? Maybe it’s time to revisit the concept. The Timberwolves, what a great appropriate name for your sports teams. Or perhaps just change the name to Elkins Timberwolves? The school fight song could be “Who let the dogs out?” I mean, how cool is that?