Ribbon-cutting for Hitchcock Creek set for Tuesday

Mayor: Creek is ‘vital part’ of tourism, recreation and downtown development plan

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — The Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail and Greenway has been enjoyed by paddlers, walkers, runners and bird watchers alike for months.

On Tuesday, local dignitaries will gather at the Steele Street access point to Hitchcock Creek. City leaders are expected to say more than a few kind words to recognize the city’s partners, including American Rivers and the Army Corps of Engineers, in converting the creek from just a creek to an outdoor recreation destination.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The Class I rapids along Hitchcock Creek are safe enough for paddlers of all ages — with the proper supervision and safety equipment.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The Class I rapids along Hitchcock Creek are safe enough for paddlers of all ages — with the proper supervision and safety equipment.

The ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at 615 Steele St. The public is invited. But the real news, which comes in two parts, will occur before and after the 4 p.m. event — shortly before, and long after.

The first part will begin about two hours before the official ribbon-cutting. That’s when city leaders will join representatives from American Rivers, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to preserving healthy waterways for communities to use and enjoy

It’s what the people from American Rivers will do next that could help the city of Rockingham take a giant leap forward in promoting Hitchcock Creek as an eco-tourism destination — that is, a waterway worth traveling to for paddlers — as well as the city’s efforts to improve and increase tourism, recreation and downtown development.

The creek, said Mayor Steve Morris, “is a vital part of our three-pronged program.”

What the city has in mind will benefit far more than those within city limits. No, what Morris and city leaders envision is being a cog in a regional tourism chain that includes attractions in and around Richmond County. Morris said the creek is for the young and old alike. Pridie Ariail agrees.

The 64-year-old Rockingham is taking advantage of the natural assets around her.

 

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Mari Bennett, of LMO Paradise Rentals in Rockingham, is banking on the growth of outdoor recreation in Richmond County.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Mari Bennett, of LMO Paradise Rentals in Rockingham, is banking on the growth of outdoor recreation in Richmond County.

“I have kayaked probably a dozen or so times, all seasons of the year,” Ariail said. “I also have enjoyed the city’s new walking trail that they have. Beyond that, I’ve had a couple of adventures on the creek” — including one trip in which a water moccasin finished the trip in the kayak and the human kayaker … needed to hitch a ride.

Even in that less-than-ideal circumstance, though — when a less experienced “creek rat” might need some assistance, Ariail said there’s always someone ready and willing to lend a helping hand.

“Everybody who’s around will come out and help,” she said. “People around the river will really help you out.”

Long-term, Morris said, the city hopes that the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority’s partnership with Arnett Muldrow & Associates, in Greenville, S.C., to form a long-range marketing plan that aims to attract residents from across the region — and beyond — to Richmond County. Morris said it might be as simple as adding wayfaring (directional) signs at existing tourist attractions that point to other attractions within the county.

Each asset, Morris said, then “becomes a mini tourism bureau,” with the miles separating, for example, the Hitchcock Creek access on Steele Street to the Rankin Museum in Ellerbe or the National Railroad Museum in Hamlet.

Another aspect of the long-range plan will be to explore marketing opportunities — signage, on the web and in print — “that appeal to people that enjoy that type of recreation.”

Morris said another key part of the plan will be to have representatives, or stakeholders, of area attractions — Rockingham Dragway, for example, or the Hamlet Depot & Museums — work together so one asset supports another.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a combined effort in the county before,” Morris said, hoping this latest effort will pull everyone together.

As for a focus of strengthening partnerships with entities outside Rockingham, Morris has an easy answer. What benefits Hamlet, Ellerbe or Norman benefits his city.

“I don’t quit when I get to the city limits,” Morris said. “It all spills over. We all benefit.”

That benefit could become felt from across the country once American Rivers representative finish touring the area next week. Their itinerary includes a trip down Hitchcock Creek early Tuesday afternoon. American Rivers is bringing along a film crew; clips from the trip will be used in conjunction with promotional material from similar trips in South Carolina and other places to highlight high-quality, clean water recreation areas.

 

 

 

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors

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