Polk eyes funding Green River Games

Published 7:13 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crowds line the Green River at last year’s Green River Narrows whitewater paddling race. (photo by Barbara Tilly)

Presentation requested Sept. 10
Polk County is currently considering sponsoring a new whitewater paddling and trail event for the Green River called the Green River Games, which could bring hundreds of visitors to the Saluda and Polk County area beginning next year.
Commissioners met Aug. 20 and tabled a decision to transfer $10,000 of occupancy tax revenue to the travel and tourism budget until more information is obtained regarding the potential games.
Polk County Economic Development Director Libbie Johnson said the county economic tourism development commission (ETDC) recommends the sponsorship and will come up with another $3,500 from existing line items for a total of $13,500 to sponsor the games.
Johnson said the event is being planned for September 2013 and would take place every year and bring hundreds of people to the area.
Johnson said John Grace, the event organizer, has put on several events, including the annual Green River Narrows race for kayakers.
“John Grace has put on several events and feels Polk County is an excellent place for this,” Johnson said. “We think it will benefit the whole county but the primary center of this is Saluda.”
She said Grace plans to take the idea of the Green River Narrows Race, held every November, and make it more formalized and add trail races, bike and paddleboard races.
“It will bring in a huge number of tourists to Polk County,” Johnson said.
Commissioners said they are on board with the games, but want to speak with Grace and asked that he make a presentation at the county’s Sept. 10 meeting before approving the sponsorship.
Green River Adventure owner Sara Bell also mentioned the Narrows race, which she said is packed with visitors. Grace was also instrumental in the Teva Mountain Games in Colorado, which is really successful and the most well known outdoor extreme sports event in the country, Bell said. Bell said the Teva Mountain Games event contributes $4 million to the area in the months surrounding the event.
“What we have to offer, it’s an amazing opportunity,” said Bell, who added she was speaking only as a Saluda business owner.
She added that such an event could bring many young, active visitors to Polk County who could potentially become residents.
Commissioner chair Ray Gasperson said it is with high certainty that the county will approve the funding on Sept. 10 after hearing from Grace.
“I think sometimes we don’t realize what a phenomenal resource we have in this county,” said Gasperson. “(The Green River is) considered one of the top whitewater rivers in the country.”

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