Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

September 18, 2013

Canal Place

Combined effort needed to solve its fiscal woes

Calling a summit of local, state and federal officials may be the best way to figure how to help Canal Place out of its financial stranglehold.

Canal Place is an important part of local tourism offerings. It is in the interest of the city, county and state to find a way around a projected deficit of $100,000 for fiscal year 2015.

Money from city, county and state coffers has been tight for several years as government has been forced to pare back services and funding. Part of Canal Place’s problem is the phasing out of hotel/motel revenue from the county and city. In FY 2015, no tax revenue will go to the tourism center.

Over the years, the state has spent about $22 million on Canal Place. City and county funding has brought in hundreds of thousands more dollars. Because Canal Place is at the terminus of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, the facility also has benefitted from federal funding. In our view, there is too much already invested to simply let Canal Place languish.

Should the Canal Place Authority ever succeed in marketing the Footer Dye Works building the entire area around the Western Maryland Station Center would be reinvigorated.

Another possibility is applying for national certification that would make Canal Place eligible for federal funding packages. But, as was pointed out by the Canal Place Authority on Tuesday, the process would take three to four years and would offer no immediate help.

Nevertheless, if a short-term strategy can be found to keep Canal Place going, the national certification could be a key to the facility’s future.

Some authority members believe closing public restrooms, doing away with free parking and raising fees for use of the grounds will help. We believe those moves would only compound the problem. Canal Place needs to continue attracting visitors — not push them away by making it more expensive for tourists and local residents.

Bringing leaders from all levels of government together might result in a new approach to the troubles Canal Place is having. For sure, such a meeting can’t make matters worse.

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