Plans for Rocky Gap State Park revived


ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer revived plans yesterday to build a golf course and a 240-room hotel and convention center in the mountains of Western Maryland, apparently convinced that required private investment in the project is on the way.

Governor Schaefer announced that he has sent the General Assembly revisions to his proposed capital budget for next year that include $7.2 million for the golf course portion of the project in Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland.

The money, which would be raised through state borrowing, would replace a like amount of cash appropriated in 1988 but never spent.

That appropriation was rescinded three weeks ago by legislators seeking any available funds to cover a $551 million deficit in this year's operating budget.

But shortly thereafter, Delegate Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, the chief proponent for the golf course project in the General Assembly, got some breathing space.

He secured a pledge from the legislature's two presiding officers to raise the $7.2 million through the sale of state general obligation bonds if the sought-after private sector share was obtained.

Now he says he has that.

Under terms laid down by the legislature, the money for the golf course could only be spent after a construction contract for the conference center was signed.

Developers secured a pledge for $23 million in bank loans to build the hotel and conference center, but only if $10 million in private seed money could be raised.

Mr. Taylor said the project has long had a commitment for $6.5 million and now believes it has found investors to provide the $3.5 million balance.

Asked if he thought that commitment was firm, he indicated it was.

He declined to say who the investors are, but said he and the governor's office hoped to make a formal announcement before week's end, possibly on Thursday.

The governor and Mr. Taylor have long touted the Rocky Gap project as a tourist draw for Western Maryland, where unemployment has often been twice that of the rest of the state.

The complex is expected to generate 300 to 400 jobs.

"This project was a good one for the economy from the very beginning," Mr. Schaefer said in a written statement yesterday. "It has picked up support all along, and its importance cannot be overrated."

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