Tourism office getting $20,000 from state Funds expected to be used to tout area golf courses

February 28, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

State grant money may push Carroll County above par in the golf industry.

With six public and several private golf courses, the county leads the state in the number of greens per golfer and will use the state money to tout its golf resources.

Yesterday, the county Office of Tourism received $4,840, the first of two state grants that will total $20,000. Barbara Beverungen, the county tourism director, is already planning a golf brochure.

Golf can generate a larger portion of the state's $5.7 billion tourism industry than it now does, said George Williams, director of the Maryland Office of Tourism. Carroll is carrying Maryland's golf load and should be showing off its sites, he said.

"There should be one golf hole for every 1,700 people," Mr. Williams said in a meeting with the County Commissioners yesterday. "In Maryland, we have about 5,000 per hole, the lowest per capita in the country."

A colorful brochure displaying the Carroll courses and local accommodations would entice golfers to play and stay, Ms. Beverungen said.

The state has earmarked $850,000 for grants to cities and counties for marketing and development. The individual tourism grants are equal to 40 percent of each jurisdiction's own advertising budget.

The more popular tourist destinations, such as Ocean City, Baltimore and Annapolis, which spend substantial amounts annually on advertising, will receive the largest share of state grants. But other also will benefit.

"We know the state is going to spend more money in areas where more people are attracted," Ms. Beverungen said. "But the rural counties are drawing those who have been there and done that."

Carroll has completed its application for the remaining $15,160, said Jack Lyburn, the county's director of economic development. That money should be available within 60 days, he said.

Any investment in tourism, already a $32 million-a-year industry in Carroll, guarantees a dividend, Mr. Lyburn said.

A newly renovated Visitors Center in Westminster drew 6,000 guests in 1995, and the annual demand for the county Calendar of Events has increased from 30,000 to 50,000, he said.

"This is a [grants] program which will produce money," said Melvin Mills, president of the Carroll County Tourism Council, a group of area business leaders. While the state tightens spending in nearly all areas, it has increased its tourism budget by $3 million a year, to $8.8 million.

"We have a real need to focus on development and create better marketing programs," Mr. Williams said. "This program will give Maryland more visibility."

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