A 10-year saga may soon reach a crucial turning point. State officials have their fingers crossed that before Labor Day private financing will be in place for a late fall groundbreaking on the Rocky Gap golf course and conference center. The project holds vast potential for depressed Western Maryland.
The final piece of the complex puzzle involving state, county and private funds is a $15.5 million mortgage financing. Once that is in place, officials from the Department of Natural Resources can seek approval by the state Board of Public Works. Then will come the actual construction.
Why is Rocky Gap so important? Because of the likely popularity of the golf course and conference center as a tourist and recreation draw. The site, east of Cumberland, is within an easy drive of 14 million people from Baltimore-Washington to Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley.
What will Rocky Gap offer? A signature Jack Nicklaus golf course. A hotel-conference center. A setting in the middle of a 3,200-acre state park with hiking trails, boating, swimming, fishing and horseback riding. To the west lies the historic towns of Cumberland and Frostburg. Further west is Deep Creek Lake. To the east lies the Antietam battlefield. And the National Freeway -- Interstate 68 -- offers seamless travel to the park's entrance.
It is a perfect location to generate jobs and businesses for Western Maryland. Construction on the golf course must begin quickly to open in the summer of 1996 (a new golf course requires two growing seasons before it is ready). The conference center will be ready at the same time.
The project will further enhance the park. This month's Rocky Gap Music Festival drew 45,000 country and western fans to Lake Habeeb. Now in its sixth year, the music event is proving so popular that lodges in Cumberland, Frostburg and at Deep Creek Lake were filled, as were nearby motels in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Think what the festival and a Nicklaus-designed golf course will do for the region. Here's hoping that this time, all the hurdles can be surmounted. Western Marylanders have been waiting a long time for an economic boost. Rocky Gap could deliver from the very first tee-off.