Town is planning for what comes next

Great Falls has spent a lot of time preparing for the whitewater recreational opportunities that are coming to the area. Now, they are preparing for what comes along with it.

From the time Duke Energy announced it would build a new state park and enable whitewater recreation in Great Falls as part of its relicensing agreement a few years ago, a lot of work has been done to prepare for the tourists that will draw to the town. Last week, Great Falls Hometown Association Executive Director Glinda Coleman addressed Great Falls Town Council about other preparations that need to occur before it is too late.

“The town needs to plan,” she said. “Rock Hill made a big mistake by not having outfitter guidelines in place when they opened the Riverwalk.”

Because of that, Coleman said out-of-towners, who had no physical presence in Rock Hill and that paid no local taxes of any kind, were setting up and occupying all available parking. The way they handled things on the back end was just as bad, she said.

“They were making tens of thousands of dollars a day but had no business presence. They would tell people at the entry point that if they missed the exit, to just call 911,” Coleman said.

When the whitewater comes, so will outfitters, so the town needs to begin developing guidelines to that end to avoid a similar situation. It should be “easy and advantageous” for those that want to do things the right way, she added.

Other businesses will spring up once people start coming in large numbers to Great Falls. It is important now to start making decisions about what sorts of businesses the town wants to attract. Do they want chain restaurants, or do they want locally owned eateries. What about things like breweries?

“The more things you have here, the more variety there is, the more people we’ll attract,” she said.

Zoning ordinances are also going to be important. While the town should welcome growth and new buildings, they should not sacrifice the integrity, “the charm” or history of the town in the process. The town should start planning to have a major social media presence that will keep the public updated on real-time basis about all things related to the whitewater recreation.

Coleman provided the council with some ordinances and guidelines other towns have adopted. The council can either adopt some of those outright or use them as a guideline to craft their own in the near future.

By Travis Jenkins, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter