Displaying items by tag: maggie valley

The Maggie Valley Police Department will see minimal cuts to its new budget despite multiple discussions about whether the small valley has more officers than it needs.

The budget was cut by $55,000 to $854,000. The town will postpone replacing two police cars.

Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce will be forced to close its visitor center after its major source of funding has suddenly dried up.

For at least two decades, the Maggie Chamber has relied on a cut of tourism tax dollars from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority to fund its visitor center operations.

Maggie Valley’s will no longer employ a festival director effective Sept. 5 — a decision that comes as no surprise to town leaders or the festival director herself.

“I had a sneaking suspicion with the new direction,” said Festival Director Audrey Hager, referencing the town board’s multiple assertions that it wants out of the festival business. “I kind of knew it was coming because it’s a totally different strategy than the previous board.”

Business owners needs to put aside their bickering and resentments for the good of Maggie Valley, Mayor Ron DeSimone emphasized last week.

“This community has been divided for a long time,” DeSimone said at a Maggie Chamber of Commerce meeting last Tuesday. “We need a united voice. We need to come together.”

A builder and architect by trade, DeSimone likes to have a plan, but he said he needs help to make a comprehensive business plan for Maggie Valley.

“I’ve created a business plan for my business but not for a whole valley,” DeSimone said. “All I am asking for is a little of your time.”

With help from the Southwestern Commission, Maggie Valley received a $20,000 grant from the North Carolina Rural Center to develop such a plan for the valley. The commission also pointed the town to Craig Madison, the former president and CEO of the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa. Madison, along with Maggie leaders, will travel from business to business talking to people about what they want for the valley.

Input from business owners will be the heart of the plan, DeSimone said.

“This is their plan. It belongs to the valley,” DeSimone said. “We are here to get it started.”

Madison will also be involved in crafting an economic development plan that will create a unique identity for the town, set goals for the valley, quantitatively measure growth and, most importantly, give Maggie a singular, cohesive vision.

“Something that tells us if we are on the right path,” DeSimone said.

Maggie Valley was hit hard by the recession and has been criticized in the past for pinning all its hopes and dreams on Ghost Town in the Sky, a once-popular amusement park, which like the valley fell into decline. The park was in foreclosure for a few years before longtime resident Alaska Presley bought Ghost Town and vowed to revive it.

But, people cannot expect her to save Maggie and must find some other baskets to put their eggs in, DeSimone said.

“Alaska can’t do this by herself. She can’t carry the valley,” DeSimone said.

Presley was on hand at the meeting to update attendees on the amusement park, which she hopes to re-open around July 1. Presley will only open the first of the park’s three levels. The lowest level will include a zipline and refurbished versions of some of Ghost Town’s original rides.

“The progress there is good,” Presley said. “There is enough that people would enjoy it.”

The chair lift that takes visitors up the mountain to the park is nearly fixed, and work will soon begin on the incline railway, another mode of transportation up the mountainside. However, the railway will take at least five months to fix. Work has also begun on the zipline.

Workers are still in the process of digging wells to meet Ghost Town’s water supply needs and then will need to redo the park’s plumbing, which was damaged during the seasonal freeze and thaw. However, come hell or high water, Presley is confident that the mountain will re-open by mid-summer and that she will slowly be able to restore the other two levels of the park, which will feature an Old West Town and religious-themed elements.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is taking matters into its own hands in the tug-of-war over the best route to Cherokee.

A tribe-purchased billboard on Interstate 40, heading west of Asheville, will soon tout two possible routes to Cherokee. Official highway signs direct Cherokee-bound traffic through Maggie Valley, but both Cherokee and Jackson County leaders had asked the state highway department to change the sign, touching off a dispute between Maggie and Jackson County, both hoping to lay claim to passing tourists en route to Cherokee.

The DOT rejected the request to change the official signs, prompting the tribe to put up its own billboard noting that U.S. 74 is also a direct route to Cherokee. The billboard will target drivers coming from the east, according to Robert Jumper, head of Cherokee Travel and Tourism. The new billboard is in production now, and Jumper expected it to be on I-40 within the next week or so.

Jumper said the tribe hears multiple complaints from motorists at the Cherokee welcome center who have been surprised, and sometimes scared, by the winding two-lane route thru Maggie Valley and over Soco Gap. Some also complain of getting stuck behind slower vehicles because there are no passing lanes, Jumper said.

U.S. 74 through Jackson County, by contrast, is a four-lane highway.

“This is for the benefit of everybody,” Jumper said. “Cherokee is going to provide a billboard that provides the customer with a choice.”

The new billboard will list both options, reading “easy access to Cherokee via U.S. 74 or U.S. 19.”

Jumper said the billboard’s message would ultimately benefit Maggie Valley, too, because some motorists now are frustrated by the trip through the small town on U.S. 19, and that could potentially repel them from wanting to go that way next time. This way, Jumper said somewhat ingeniously, the tribe can redirect those visitors looking for a more “scenic route” on their return trip, and they’ll have a more positive impression of the small Haywood County town because they’ll know what to expect on the two-lane highway.

More than 3.5 million visitors a year come to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort, and hundreds of thousands of additional tourists come to Cherokee as a cultural destination or jumping off point for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After receiving some poor tourism-related numbers last year, Jackson leaders went hunting for a method to entice more visitors to the county, hence the sign request.

Cherokee quickly jumped on the sign bandwagon, sending letters of support for a new sign from the chief and the tourism office.

The route through Maggie is shorter mileage-wise, but a study by the state DOT showed that travel time was essentially the same — about 35 minutes — no matter which road was taken. The study also looked at safety and found that the risk of a motorist getting into an accident on U.S. 19 compared to U.S. 74 was negligible. The Maggie route follows a narrow, two-lane winding road over Soco Gap. The crash rate — which in simple terms is the ratio of wrecks to the total number of vehicles — is 10 percent higher for the Maggie route than for U.S. 74.

DOT turned down the request for a new sign citing safety concerns, as in the possibility of more wrecks as motorists attempted to puzzle out a sign offering dueling routes. Cherokee’s billboard will be bigger than a standard highway sign, allowing the information to be read clearly, and will be placed on I-40, giving people plenty of time to decide which route to take rather than a highway sign giving only a split second of decision time before the exit.

Maggie Valley has emerged victorious in an ongoing tug-of-war with Jackson County over who can rightfully lay claim to tourists en route to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort.

The N.C. Department of Transportation rejected a request from Jackson County leaders that a new highway sign direct Cherokee-bound travelers past their own doorstep instead of through Maggie. Instead the current sign, which takes motorists through Maggie Valley via U.S. 19, will remain the lone highway marker pointing the way to Cherokee for tourists coming off Interstate 40.

Cherokee leaders had sided with Jackson County and joined the push for a second sign that would direct visitors to take the four-lane Smoky Mountain expressway instead of the curvy two-lane road over Soco Gap. More than 3.5 million visitors a year come to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort, and hundreds of thousands of additional tourists come to Cherokee as a cultural destination or jumping off point for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Maggie Valley leaders were happy to hear that DOT decided to maintain the status quo.

“It was certainly good news,” said Maggie Mayor Ron DeSimone. “It didn’t seem there was any compelling reason to change it.”

The route through Maggie is shorter mileage-wise, but a study by the DOT showed that travel time was essentially the same — about 35 minutes — no matter which road was taken. The study also looked at safety and found that the risk of a motorist getting into an accident on U.S. 19 compared to U.S. 74 was negligible. The Maggie route follows a narrow, two-lane winding road over Soco Gap. The crash rate — which in simple terms is the ratio of wrecks to the total number of vehicles — is 10 percent higher for the Maggie route than for U.S. 74.

“I am glad that they did come to the decision that they did,” said Maggie Alderman Phil Aldridge.

Leaders in Haywood County and in Maggie sent letters to the DOT asking them to deny Jackson County’s request, saying that the sign simply took from one and gave to another. The sign would take business and visitors away from an already struggling Maggie Valley, opponents of the new sign said.

“It definitely would have had an impact,” DeSimone said.

DOT, however, also denied Haywood County leaders’ apparent tongue-in-cheek request that it install a sign along U.S. 441 in Dillsboro that would inform travelers from the Atlanta area that they could reach Cherokee by going up and around through Waynesville and Maggie Valley. Dillsboro to Cherokee via U.S. 441 is 14 miles and takes some 20 minutes. Dillsboro to Cherokee via Waynesville and Maggie Valley is 45 miles and takes about an hour.

Jackson County leaders took the news about no-new-directional sign on U.S. 74 in diplomatic fashion.

“I’m not surprised with the final decision,” Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten said. “It seems our request did not fit within their policies.”

Jackson County Commissioner Chairman Jack Debnam said the county would not argue with the DOT regarding its decision.

“We’re OK with it,” Debnam said. “I just don’t think we’re going to qualify for a sign, and that’s just one of the battles you don’t pick. You’ve just got to let it go sometimes.”

The cost of a new sign had been estimated at about $100,000 minimum — and perhaps double that depending on how much information it attempted to convey about the two dueling routes.

In a letter sent to everyone involved earlier this month, DOT Division Engineer Joel Setzer noted that the agency’s focus “was to look primarily at traffic safety, travel time and travel distance” along U.S. 74 and U.S. 19 when considering the request. Other factors considered were traffic crashes, routing by mapping services and average winter weather conditions along both routes.

DOT tried to craft a highway sign that would include both routes, listing things such as mileage, drive time and road conditions for each. But, that proved problematic.

“NCDOT recognized that the request (for a second sign) was reasonable and made sense but struggled with how a sign or series of signs could effectively communicate to high speed traffic that this choice was available,” the letter stated.

This difficulty, the DOT letter continued, “is the very reason that it is against policy.”

“To a motorist unfamiliar with the area, seeing two choices for one destination would cause confusion, which could create a dangerous situation in a high speed highway environment,” the letter stated.

The DOT also noted that the current sign meets state rules on sign placement because the U.S. 19 route is 11 miles shorter than traveling U.S. 74 to Cherokee.

The agency, in rejecting Haywood County leaders’ request for a sign in Dillsboro rerouting Cherokee traffic their way, said what’s good for the goose is good for the gander: the route proposed is longer and therefore violated state policies for road signs.

The new owner of Ghost Town in the Sky tied up the final loose ends related to her purchase of the bankrupt amusement park last week.

Alaska Presley officially took title to the rides and buildings on the grounds of the once-popular amusement park for $500,000, bringing the total cost of buying Ghost Town out of foreclosure to $2 million. She purchased the actual land in mid-February for $1.5 million.

The list of equipment and buildings in the sale includes Ghost Town’s rides, the A-frame souvenir shop and ticket booth at the bottom of the mountain and the structures that make up the mock Wild West town.

The inventory indicates that most of Ghost Town’s rides — such as a vintage WWII-era carousel, the kiddie coaster and Sky Fighter — are more than 40 years old and have dwelled inside the amusement park’s gates since its heyday. Despite their age, Presley previously stated that she will refurbish and restore the rides if possible.

Ghost Town has been closed for two years after going into bankruptcy, but Presley plans to reopen the park that once brought 400,000 visitors and prosperity to Maggie Valley. But, before it can even think about opening, “there is so much more to be done,” Presley said.

Presley has gotten electrical power restored to a portion of the park, including the old Wild West town, which is the main focus of Presley’s revitalization efforts right now and the portion that she hopes to open before the end of the tourist season this year.

Haywood EMC, the electrical power company that serves Ghost Town, turned off the power after being stiffed an unknown amount of money by the former owners. The company previously told Presley that it would restore electrical services to the mountain if she shelled out $30,000 up front given the track record of the past owners.

Presley has also figured out a new plan to solve ongoing woes with the park’s water system. Ghost Town is on the public water supply of Maggie Valley Sanitary District, but has battled with aging pipes and system to get the water up to the mountaintop theme park. Presley now plans to build two wells to provide water to the amusement park rather than trying to pump water up the mountain.

“It will be so much more economical,” Presley said.

A Maggie Valley man wants to extract himself from the town limits, claiming the services he gets from the town don’t warrant the taxes he pays.

He stands to save $2,450 a year in town property taxes if successful in wresting his three-acre gated mountaintop tract out of Maggie Valley’s town limits.

Joe Manascalco has cleared the first hurdle in the two-step process. He won support from a majority of Maggie Valley town leaders to remove his property from the town’s borders. Redrawing the town limits to de-annex someone’s property also requires a special vote of the General Assembly in Raleigh, a step Manascalco must tackle next.

Maggie leaders were narrowly split on the issue when it came before them last month, approving the request by a 3-to-2 vote.

Mayor Ron DeSimone thinks the vote to de-annex Manascalco was bad policy. DeSimone called the decision “nebulous, contradictory and inconsistent.” DeSimone believes the aldermen who went along with Manascalco’s request did so because of their philosophical views concerning annexation rather than the facts of Manascalco’s actual situation.

“There is a big difference between agreeing or disagreeing with forced annexation and going back and dismantling something that was done,” DeSimone said.

DeSimone said it also opens the doors for other residents to ask to be de-annexed.

“I think it was a mistake,” he said.

DeSimone warned the board they would be opening Pandora’s box by granting Manascalco’s request.

Indeed, two more residents have stepped up in the past month asking to be de-annexed as well. One appeared simply to be making a point by putting forward a tongue-in-cheek request. The second had originally asked to be annexed in order to get on town sewer, but once they got on the sewer lines, wants to be de-annexed.

But Alderman Phil Aldridge, who supported Manascalco’s request, said the town would just have to “weed out” the illegitimate ones as they come in.

In Manascalco’s case, Aldridge believes he was wrongly brought into the town limits in the first place. It is at the top of a steep, one-lane road and is difficult to provide services to.

“The road will never meet the town’s standards. When a snow plow or garbage truck goes up that road, it has to back all the way back down,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge agreed with DeSimone on one front: he isn’t a fan of forced annexation.

“I have always been against forced annexation,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge questioned whether the town annexed Manascalco because it saw dollar signs.

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Aldridge said. “Quit taking in these areas just because they have a half-million home on them.”

The rest of the subdivision where Manascalco lives, Evergreen Heights, was annexed into the town limits at the same time.

“When we annex subdivisions, it is usually the entire subdivision not just part of the subdivision,” said Town Manager Tim Barth.

 

A tale of annexation

Manascalco’s property hasn’t been in the town limits long. His property was brought into town in 2009 as part of a large-scale annexation. Seven different residential pockets and subdivisions — totaling 166 acres and more than 130 homes — were part of the annexation that year.

Barth said the goal of the 2009 annexation was to bring those who were already on town sewer officially into the town limits.

“The request was to try to annex as many of the people who had sewer as possible,” Barth said.

Aldridge said simply being on town sewer isn’t justification to annex someone. There are 400 people on town sewer that aren’t in the town limits, and the town isn’t going after those people, Aldridge said.

Manascalco’s property is known locally as “the compound.” He lives at the top of a mountain, up a one-lane road that dead-ends at a gate across his driveway. Two pillars flank the road on the approach to his property, with a sign on one alerting people they have entered a private drive.

There is nowhere to turn around without going through the gate, so the town’s trash truck had to back down the road after reaching his gate. The trashmen didn’t have a problem doing that, Barth said.

But, Manascalco said he didn’t think it was safe and told the town to stop picking up his trash last year.

“He said he didn’t want garbage service,” Barth said.

The town offered to have trash trucks come through the gate and turn around, but Manascalco didn’t want to provide a key.

DeSimone found it ironic that Manascalco canceled town trash pick-up then complained he wasn’t getting town services.

When DeSimone drove up to Manascalco’s property to get a lay of the land before voting on the issue, he encountered a propane truck — backing up no less.

“This is the mountains,” DeSimone said. “People have to back up all over the place.”

Town snowplows did not plow the road because it was considered a private street, even though it was in the town limits.

In addition to trash pick-up, being a town resident gets you police protection, which Manascalco will continue to receive even if he isn’t on the tax rolls.

Technically, property outside the town limits is under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff’s office. But if there were an emergency, Maggie town cops would respond since they are naturally going to be closer.

 

Annexation a can of worms

Ultimately, Manascalco’s de-annexation claims come down to a technicality.

The town only can target urban or suburban areas for annexation. Annexed areas essentially must be meet the definition of being “in town” — as opposed to farmland or large empty tracts.

There’s a litmus test to ensure towns don’t unfairly target large tracts, simply sucking up property taxes without providing services to many residents in return. The law says 60 percent of both the total area and total number of tracts being annexed have to be fewer than three acres.

At the time Manascalco’s property was annexed, it was listed as three separate lots, each a little more than an acre.

But he believes his property should have been considered for annexation purposes as a single lot of 3.5 acres rather than three separate ones.

“He believes, even though they weren’t combined at the time, they should have been considered one lot because he owned all three of them and had no plans to sell any of them,” Barth said. “But we don’t know that and didn’t know that at the time.”

DeSimone doubts Manascalco’s chances of getting a de-annexation bill passed in Raleigh are very good. A bill would have to be introduced and passed in both the state House and Senate in order to go forward. Whether legislators from the mountains would be willing to expend their political capital to rectify Manascalco’s plight isn’t known.

“That is not likely to happen. These bills have been somewhat cantankerous,” DeSimone said.

Maggie Valley has steadily increased its town limits during the past three decades. In the 1970s, Maggie Valley was nothing but a strip of motels, restaurants and gift shops — the town limits draw like a long skinny snake along the main commercial drag. It had only a few dozen actual residents.

But as mountainside subdivisions sprung up around Maggie, giving rise to both a seasonal and year-round population, the town limits expanded to bring the newfound residential population into its fold.

The way town leaders saw it, the town’s infrastructure was being maxed by the burgeoning residential population cropping up all around it but not contributing their fair share through property taxes.

The annexations were nearly always fought by residents who thought they were getting a raw deal. The town services they got weren’t worth the taxes they paid, opponents claimed.

DeSimone’s own neighborhood was annexed into the town limits of Maggie Valley during the past decade. DeSimone said the majority of those in his subdivision are now glad they are in the town limits, however.

 

De-annexation request follows small campaign contribution

Two Maggie Valley aldermen who voted to de-annex Joe Manascalco had gotten a modest campaign contribution from him in the last election.

Aldermen Phil Aldridge and Phillip Wight voted to de-annex Manascalco after receiving a $200 shared campaign contribution. The contribution was also to be shared by Mayor Ron DeSimone, although he voted against Manascalco’s request when it came up last month.

Manascalco had donated $200 to Aldridge, DeSimone and Wight in the fall election. The three ran as a team, putting all three of their names on signs and brochures.

While Manascalco gave the $200 to Aldridge, according to campaign finance reports filed in the Haywood County Board of Elections office, it was shared equally by the three for campaign literature.

“Joe said, ‘Make sure everybody gets this.’ It was all put into one pile and shared in one kitty,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge said the political donation from Manascalco played no role in how he voted on the de-annexation.

“It was $200,” Aldridge said, pointing out the sum is way too small for anyone to honestly think it could be considered a bribe.

Aldridge said he “honestly felt in my heart” that Manascalco had been treated unfairly four years ago.

The donation obviously didn’t influence DeSimone, since he voted against Manascalco’s request.

This is not the first time Aldridge and DeSimone have been at odds after having run on the same ticket.

Ghost Town in the Sky owner Alaska Presley has recruited singer and longtime friend Stella Parton to help her draw tourists to Maggie Valley.

Presley spoke to the town’s Board of Aldermen last week about the idea of hosting at least a couple of concert events this year in the parking lot of Ghost Town, an amusement park that was once kept the pace of the valley’s economic heartbeat. The park was closed for two years after going into bankruptcy. However, Presley has purchased the property and promised to restore it to its former glory.

Parton, sister of the famed Dolly Parton, was on hand to introduce herself to the new town leaders and speak a bit more about the possible event.

Although it is too late in the year to plan a Memorial Day event, Parton said she wants to host concert events, tentatively titled Pickin’ in the Parking Lot, around July 4th and Labor Day Weekend.

“It will be almost like a weekend festival,” Parton said.

Friday would feature bluegrass bands; Saturday would showcase country singers, including Parton herself; and Sunday would be reserved for gospel music. Each day would spotlight “local flavor as well as a headliner.”

Parton, who has roots in Haywood County, told the town aldermen and those in attendance that she is not an investor but simply someone who wants to help Presley and help the valley.

“We are going to bring people into the valley,” Presley said. “Ghost Town will go. I have no doubt.”

Presley also stated that she was grateful for the advice and kind words she has received from Maggie Valley residents since she purchased Ghost Town.

“This is the first time in so many years that I’ve seen the valley come together,” Presley said.

And, despite a couple snags in her plans, Presley is still confident that parts of Ghost Town will be open and running smoothly come summer. Topping the to-do list is getting the rides up and running, including a chairlift that takes tourists from the valley floor to the mountaintop theme park. If and when Ghost Town opens this year, the chair lift will be the sole mode of transportation up the mountain.

“The chair lift won’t take very much (to repair),” Presley said, estimating that it will cost about $30,000 to “perfect it.”

Although she originally thought that incline railway could be repaired by summer, Presley did not officially own the amusement park until the end of last month, which kept her from starting repairs earlier. When state inspectors came to tour Ghost Town a couple weeks ago, they advised Presley to hold off on the incline repairs until the end of tourism season this year, saying it would likely not be fully functional until late in the season.

By forgoing the incline repairs, Presley can focus more time on other important obstacles — such powering the mountain and fixing the water system.

After being stiffed an unknown amount of money by the previous owners, the electrical power company that serves Ghost Town said it would not restore electrical services to the mountain unless Presley shells out $30,000 before Aug. 1. And, after paying $20,000 for a new water pump to push the essential liquid up the steep mountain slopes, the municipal water district told Presley that her best opinion might be to dig wells, which could provide aqua to the amusement park.

On the sunny side, Presley is currently on the look out for someone to construct a zipline, one of several attractions she hopes to open this year.

Driving down Maggie Valley’s main drag, it’s hard not to notice the gauntlet of signs offering cheers of support for Ghost Town in the Sky’s new owner Alaska Presley.

Business owners on both sides of U.S. 19 have rearranged the lettering on their message boards to thank or bless Presley for vowing to reopen Ghost Town, an amusement park that symbolizes past prosperity in Maggie Valley.

“It makes me feel good,” Presley said of the encouraging notes.

Ghost Town has been closed for two years after going into bankruptcy but was purchased earlier this year by Presley who plans to reopen the park that once brought droves of visitors to Maggie Valley.

Weeds and other plant life have grown up around Ghost Town’s attractions, adding to its unkempt look. As she toured the park last week, Presley pointed out bushes and trees that would need to come down or be trimmed back and areas where brush must be cleared. Presley has already hired workers to tackle the greenery and is looking for contractors to make other necessary repairs.

With a listed population of 681, the mock Wild West Town sits at an altitude of 4,600 feet. While obviously a victim of harsh mountaintop weathering, vandals left the most apparent blemishes — broken windows, doors and doorframes, and residue from fire extinguishers — throughout the small fictional town.

“The buildings to me seemed in pretty good shape,” said Teresa Smith, executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, adding that most of the work looked cosmetic.

Presley estimated that $2,500 worth of glass had been smashed but feels better now that she owns Ghost Town and can take action against any trespassers.

“Now, I can do something whereas before I didn’t have the authority,” Presley said.

Presley has dreamed of owning Ghost Town ever since its original owner put it up for sale 10 years ago. It was shuttered for three years, reopened under new owners for a couple of years, but then fell into bankruptcy and was once again closed. Presley rescued the park after striking a well-planned financial arrangement with BB&T. While BB&T was owed $9.5 million by the previous owners, Presley bought it last month for just $1.5 million.

But her work has only begun, as she embarks on a legacy project for the valley she loves: to restore the park to its former glory. The price tag is unknown, but she plans to tap her personal assets for the initial work.

Presley had previously remained quiet about some of her plans for Ghost Town’s revival but last week revealed her hopes to turn the highest of the park’s three levels into a religious-themed attraction.

The top level currently houses a concert hall, kiddy rides and Native American village. However, Presley plans to move the children’s rides to Ghost Town’s lowest level, where other rides currently reside, and get rid of the village.

In their place, Presley said she hopes to build large gold and white concert hall where people can hold religious events or performances. If her dream becomes a reality, the mountaintop would be crowned with statue of Jesus with a similar look to the one in Rio De Janeiro, Presley said.

 

A very long to-do list

For now, Presley is focused on getting Ghost Town’s core attractions up and running — fixing up the Old West town and getting the parks’ rides in working order — in hopes of a summer opening.

All the amusement rides, including the park’s signature roller coaster and its all-important chairlift that takes tourists up the mountain, must pass inspection with the N.C. Department of Labor. That had proved a hurdle for past owners, partly because of a strained relationship.

To get the ball rolling, Presley invited Cherie Berry, the state labor commissioner, to tour the amusement park last week along with Maggie Valley leaders and media.

During the tour of Ghost Town, Presley and Berry were “laughing, cutting up and holding hands,” Smith said. “That will be a really good working relationship.”

Representatives from the Department of Labor said they were not surprised by the appearance of the park. The equipment looked much like they thought it would, considering the weathering it has undergone during the past two years, said Tom Chambers, chief of the Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau at the Department of Labor.

State officials have not been asked to conduct comprehensive tests on Ghost Town attractions as of yet and therefore could not provide opinions on how much or what type of work the rides need. It is still up-in-the-air as to which rides still work.

“I don’t know what’s good and what’s not good,” Presley said.

No matter what, however, it is clear that Ghost Town still has its fans who will show up to visit the park when it opens. The Maggie Valley Chamber still receives messages everyday asking if Ghost Town is open.

Once Presley is able to fix transportation up the mountain, “I think people will be excited just to hear that the chairlift and incline are running,” Smith said.

As well as repairing the transit, however, Presley will need attractions that will draw all ages. One such addition would be a zipline, which Presley hopes to incorporate before opening.

A zipline would be “awesome,” Smith said. “The thrill lovers would love it.”

Page 18 of 33

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