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The allure of boosting County infrastructure and simultaneously creating a regional and national attraction was a major factor in Buncombe County landing $6 million from the Tourism Development Authority (TDA). This high-dollar investment supplements an already impressive amount of outside money the County’s Parks and Recreation Department has secured for the $12 million project. In fact, the County will only subsidize $1.2 million of the initiative that will create the Enka Heritage Trial, improve the Buncombe County Sports Park, add lighting at Bob Lewis Ballpark, connect existing greenways, and more.
“One of our big goals is to find projects that drive room nights and are great for the community. This fits both criteria,” notes Robert Foster, Chair of the Tourism Product Development Fund that works with the TDA on selecting projects that receive funding. “We have a phenomenal opportunity to host tournaments [at this site] in the future. It’s a huge win-win.”
Buncombe County Parks and Recreation Director Josh O’Conner says he’s excited to move this project closer to reality. “The community has been working to build momentum behind this project and we’re thrilled to have the funding in place,” says O’Conner, who adds all aspects of the project represent “a major advancement in our area’s recreational amenities.”
Of particular importance is the Enka Heritage Trail. “It’s an important aspect to our County's greenway system because it emphasizes the cultural history of the Enka community and the River Cane breaks that are important sites of significance for the Cherokee,” explains County Greenway Planner Karla Furnari.
While the project will benefit the entirety of Buncombe County and the region at-large, it will be located in District Three represented by Commissioners Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley. “This is awesome,” Commissioner Pressley says through a massive smile, noting his kids play ball and he’s seen the revenue potential hosting tournaments can have. “This will bring the revenue in quicker than anything I’ve seen in my two years as a Commissioner.”
Commission Belcher, who also holds a seat on the TDA, says, “It’s a big deal for the County and the citizens.” He also notes the return on investment will be significant. “The projects supported are going to make dramatic impacts in the community. From a funding standpoint, this money is paid by people outside of Buncombe County, and that’s a big deal.”
O’Conner says construction on some aspects of the project will begin this coming spring with the goal of completing the entire project by 2022. For more specifics on the project visit the County’s previous write-up here. You can read about all the projects that received TDA funding here.