Polk to sponsor Green River GamesPublished 5:00pm Friday, September 14, 2012
The majority of Polk County commissioners agreed to spend $10,000 of occupancy tax money to sponsor a new event called the Green River Games.
Event organizer John Grace of AMONGSTiT gave a presentation about the event to commissioners Monday, Sept. 10 at the Polk County Middle School.
Commissioner chair Ray Gasperson, vice-chair Renée McDermott and commissioner Cindy Walker approved sponsoring the games and commissioner Tom Pack voted against the sponsorship. Commissioner Ted Owens was absent.
The county’s economic and tourism development commission (ETDC) supports the county’s sponsorship and has agreed to add an additional $3,500 from its budget for a total of $13,500 from the county.
Grace, of Asheville, organizes the Green Race, which takes place in the Green River Narrows for kayakers every November. He said there are few places in the world with the Green River’s kind of access.
“It’s truly a special area,” Grace said, and added that not a lot of people outside kayaking know about the Green River, “And I’d like them to know about it.”
The Green River Games is planned to be a three-day event beginning on Sept. 28, 2013. The Green River Narrows race will occur this year on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Events planned for the Green River Games include a 5k run in the gorge, trail running, a kayak slalom, road and mountain biking and stand-up paddling.
“Polk County has an area that can combine all those,” Grace said. “Along with putting this event on, you put Polk on the map as an outdoor destination.”
Grace said people frequently come from other areas, such as Atlanta, Hendersonville, N.C. and Asheville, N.C., for outdoor recreation. He said, “The bottom line is, there’s a better location here.”
Citizen comments included two from Saluda residents who expressed concern over parking and the county’s potential liability for sponsoring such an event.
Stewart Reid said all the people for the Green River Narrows Race are compacted to a very narrow area and are taking their lives in their own hands. He also said he feels as though if the county sponsors the event, for liability purposes, the county will have to cut down trees and install handrails and walkways. He also said the economic impact to Saluda will be “negligible if any at all.”
Gary Reid discussed the dangers of multiple cars traveling on narrow roads in Saluda during events.
“I know these guys come in there and have fun and enjoy what they’re doing,” Gary Reid said. “They don’t mean to do it but they put us out greatly. When you go to church you have to watch out not to get run over.”
Gary Reid also said he doesn’t think this is something the county needs to be paying for and the event needs to pay law enforcement officers to handle traffic.
Grace said police costs are included in his budget and he also has a parking plan that includes shuttling visitors to the gorge. He also said visitors to the event will be directed to stay at Polk County’s bed and breakfasts and to Polk businesses. The award ceremony will also occur in Saluda, and the runs will end in Saluda, he said. Grace also said the video and all marketing for the games will include Polk County’s brand.
ETDC’s Craig Hilton said the commission has researched the games and thinks the event is an opportunity to utilize the natural resources Polk County has.
Hilton said the games would provide an immediate impact on the county through lodging and recognition of Polk’s resources.
“I don’t see a downside to this,” Hilton said.