The shouts of "fore!" echoed from the valley towns of Western Maryland to celebrate the completion of a $10 million equity commitment that means golfers could be lining up by 1994 to try out their irons and woods on a Jack Nicklaus signature 18-hole course at Rocky Gap near Cumberland.
Along with the golf course will come a 240-room hotel and conference center that figures to be quickly filled by corporate and government groups. The golf-and-conference combination could pump some vitality into the sagging spirits of Maryland's Appalachian region.
Putting together the $48-million Rocky Gap financing package was arduous. It often looked hopeless. But Del. Casper Taylor and other Western Maryland supporters of this economic development project never gave up hope. It finally came down to $1 million contributions from the Operating Engineers of Baltimore and the Western Maryland Building Trades Council to breathe life into plans for Rocky Gap. This investment could pay dividends in a just few years.
The 2,800-acre state park is an ideal setting for a challenging golf course, a high-caliber conference center, a fishing academy, a tennis academy and a golfing academy. With the completion of Interstate 68, the site is within easy driving distance for 14 million people in Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley. Golfing interest is especially keen in Baltimore and Washington, where existing local links are jammed. The Nicklaus signature course could rank as one of the best in the East and offer a special treat for local duffers.
Meanwhile, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his supporters in the Baltimore-Washington business communities have made it clear that large numbers of meetings will be held at Rocky Gap. The hotel, golf course and conference center will probably be turning people away soon after the complex opens.
That's good news for Western Maryland, where the unemployment rate still hovers well above 10 percent. Between construction at Rocky Gap, state and federal prisons planned for the Cumberland area, the growing vacation popularity of Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County and the development potential stemming from the completion of I-68, folks living in Maryland's western-most counties finally can look forward to more prosperous days later in this decade.