BOONE — The Watauga Tourism Development Authority board decided to test the market for three future projects during its August board meeting Tuesday morning.
In the two-hour meeting, the Watauga TDA discussed the importance of four projects: The redevelopment of Howard’s Knob Park, developing a new section of greenway on the South Fork New River, wayfinding signage and outdoor recreation marketing materials.
After discussion on Tuesday the board gave direction to TDA Executive Director Wright Tilley to submit requests for quotation for Howard’s Knob Park, South Fork New River Greenway and wayfinding signage.
Beginning the process of pursuing outdoor recreation marketing materials costing $40,000 was voted on unanimously with periodic updates every two months for the six-month project.
The majority of the meeting was spent discussing Howard’s Knob Park, the South Fork New River Greenway, and wayfinding signage, with conversation often overlapping into one or the other.
According to estimates provided by Eric Woolridge of the firm Destination by Design in June, developing a master plan for Howard’s Knob Park would take 12 months and cost $52,000 plus $15,000 for a survey. The South Fork New River Greenway master plan would be $67,500 plus $20,000 for the survey and take 18 months; and wayfinding signage was estimated at $87,000 to identify needed signage that would take 12 months to develop.
Out of the three, the board seemed to find wayfinding signage as the biggest need.
“There’s no signage on the roads now,” TDA board member Kim Rogers commented. “You can drive down N.C. 105 and not know where anything is.”
Tilley distributed materials relating to his research on wayfinding signage in other communities, nothing that in most municipalities he studied, the towns or cities footed most of the bill.
“It’s a million dollar project, easy,” Tilley explained.
Regarding the Howard’s Knob Park and South Fork New River Greenway project, several board members noted the two projects would likely be bid out together.
One problem regarding Howard’s Knob that board chairman Matt Vincent mentioned was that no one knew where the well is, but they have an inkling it’s on land that is now privately owned, which might alter potential plans for updated restroom facilities.
Vincent faced skepticism from the board regarding pursuing all the projects at once, with some noting the board’s continuing commitments toward the Middle Fork Greenway.
“I think having a greenway going from Blowing Rock all the way to Todd would be excellent,” Vincent said of the potential for the Middle Fork Greenway, Boone Greenway and South Fork New River Greenway eventually connecting together.
Vincent explained that all of the projects are years down the road, but it’s better to plan now, noting that easements on the South Fork New River could be harder to get in future years.
“It might be a project for the next generation to enjoy,” Vice Chairman Tony Gray said.