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Aleshire: Take steps to keep welcome center open

July 30, 2009|By KRISTIN ALESHIRE

Editor's note: The following is from an e-mail the writer sent last week after learning of the proposed closure of the Sideling Hill welcome center.

I am sure by now you have heard and are equally surprised by the recommended closure of the Sideling Hill Welcome Center here in our beautiful Western Maryland. I hope you will agree that the savings that will be achieved pale in comparison to the loss of access to this unique regional landmark and the economic benefit it brings to the many folks who travel this route for tourism, vacation, and general access to much of United States west of the mid-Atlantic seaboard.

In my nearly 10 years in public service, I have never called upon the state, nor upon my counterparts here in Western Maryland, as directly as I did this morning and do now to say that for this small amount of annual funding we should not allow the doors to close indefinitely upon this important public resource.

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I have no illusion that the state budget is in crucial flux and that this administration is working diligently to remain fiscally sound in these uncertain times. I do feel, however, that there are going to be a number of items that come across the local desk for such reductions and we will be tasked with the responsibility of choosing which items are paramount and within our local abilities to find some common solution. In such instances, we should be afforded the opportunity to express in one voice, however far it may stretch, that certain things are important to the folks these decisions from afar are affecting. This for me is certainly one of those times.

I have contacted local EDC and tourism staff and have placed several calls to the governor's office and appropriate state departments in an effort to see if we can collectively find some reasonable means by which this small amount of funding can be restored. I certainly do not need to be part of these meetings and know that there are much greater minds that are better equipped to identify possible solutions. I am simply attempting, if it has not already occurred, to get the ball rolling.

This letter goes out to a lot of folks from all parts of the local community spectrum that I have encountered in the process of discussing any number of issues. Many have probably not held the same position on one issue or another and it may even be so in this case. However, I would like to believe that most will generally agree in the rational sense it makes to at least sit down and see if it is possible to forge some brief means by which to keep this welcome center, tourism draw, economic tool and educational facility open.

We have certainly spent a lot more time and funding on much less worthy causes in the past.

Kristin Aleshire is a Washington County commissioner.

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