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W.Va. visitors center not closing ... yet

December 20, 2001

W.Va. visitors center not closing ... yet



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


State and local officials said Monday there are several possible ways of keeping open a state-run visitors center that was to be shut down at the end of the year.

A rent increase, as well as lack of handicapped accessibility and the lack of a fire escape in the building, were among the factors in the decision to close the center on Dec. 31, which has now been postponed.

During a lengthy dialogue during a public meeting Monday night at the KOA Campground near Harpers Ferry, the focus turned to how to save the visitors center.

Perhaps the owner of the building which leases space for the visitors center could sell the state a piece of property for the center, state Tourism Commissioner Alisa Bailey said Tuesday.

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Or with the help of local elected officials, perhaps another site for the visitors center could be found, said Bailey.

"I think there's a lot of different scenarios to be considered," Bailey said.

Victoria Drumheller, who leases space for the visitors center, said she owns a former gas station and a real estate office next door to the visitors center that she might consider selling to the state.

Under the current arrangement, the Division of Tourism rents space for the visitors center from Cedar Images Inc., which is owned by Drumheller. In June, Drumheller decided to double the monthly rent for the visitors center from $150 to $300.

Although Bailey said her department has decided to postpone the Dec. 31 closing date of the visitor's center, she emphasized her office would not "fork out money" indefinitely for the facility along U.S. 340 near Bolivar Heights.

"We're not going to let this drag on," said Bailey.

Brande Larrimore, who oversees the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, has said closing the center would take away a formidable tourism presence in Jefferson County.

An estimated 300,000 people each year visit the tourist center, which is near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Charles Town Races.

Although they could not be reached for comment Tuesday, Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson and Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, expressed hope they might be able to secure state money to upgrade the current center, said Jefferson County Commission President James G. Knode.

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