On the green at Rocky Gap

August 31, 1994

In golfing parlance, the state of Maryland has finally hit onto the green and is about to line up its putt. That's how close the state is to completing its arduous attempt to build a championship golf course and conference center at Rocky Gap State Park, east of Cumberland. It's a project that could give Western Maryland a much-needed boost.

Efforts to locate a golf course at Rocky Gap began over 10 years ago. Ever since then, supporters have spent as much time in the rough as they have on the fairways. Every time it looked as though the project would become reality, another setback occurred. The onset of the recession served as a giant sand trap, with the state and private developers buried so deep in debt that it has taken until now to blast the ball out of that fairway hazard.

The last major hurdle could be surmounted soon: private placement of a $15.5 million mortgage. That would be the final piece of the financial puzzle. Then the Board of Public Works must sign off on the project so construction can commence.

But the public opening could be delayed until late 1996 because the golf course will require two growing seasons before it is ready to entertain duffers. The wait should be worth it, though.

What is envisioned is an exclusive Jack Nicklaus signature golf course laid out over some truly scenic parkland. The hotel-conference center will open at the same time as the 18 holes, with an eye toward capturing business meetings from in-state corporate groups. With the phenomenal rise in the public demand for golf courses, a Nicklaus-designed set-up could be a real draw -- especially since the Rocky Gap locale is within a day's drive of some 14 million people in the populous Baltimore-Washington region, the Pittsburgh region and the Ohio Valley region.

In addition to a championship golf course, park visitors can go horseback riding, hiking, swimming, boating and fishing. The course also lies within a few hours of Deep Creek Lake and the Civil War's Antietam National Battlefield Park. It could prove a boon for the tourism and recreation industries of Western Maryland.

The project is expected to employ 350 people and spawn a host of new businesses near the park. For a region with a chronic unemployment problem, the Rocky Gap undertaking holds momentous potential.

Will the state hole its putt? Let's hope so. The hardy and determined people of Western Maryland deserve some good news for a change.

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