Next year, Western Maryland will pass up the popular white-water canoe and kayak races which have helped boost the region's depressed economy. The decision, forced by a lack of state and private funds, may prove to be a blessing in disguise. The mighty Savage River, site of previous national and international events, is being boosted instead for trial competition for those who seek places on the 1992 U.S. Olympic white-water racing team.
That is a creative response to the loss next year of canoe and kayak events. Make no mistake, Western Maryland will miss its white-water sports in 1991. But if the Savage River becomes a proving ground for U.S. Olympians two years hence, local and state leaders must plan ahead and gain commitments.
To understand the importance of white-water canoeing on the Savage, consider the 1989 three-day schedule when 20 countries competed in the World White-Water Championships. The estimated gain for the region was $10 million, according to state Sen. John Bambacus, R-Allegany, president of the World Championship, Inc., which still owes some businesses approximately $10,000 for their participation.