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Garrett County to take over whitewater course

Garrett County to take over whitewater course

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HAGERSTOWN — Garrett County will assume ownership of a manmade whitewater course near McHenry after the nonprofit developer of the western Maryland tourism and training site defaulted on more than $3 million in bank loans, county officials and the development group said Wednesday.

The deal won’t affect the International Canoe Federation’s plans to hold its 2014 world whitewater paddling championships at the 5-year-old mountaintop course, said Duane Yoder, board chairman of Adventure Sports Center International, the nonprofit developer.

Yoder and Garrett County Administrator G. Lamont Pagenhardt said the county won’t be liable for the center’s bank debt.

County officials will announce details of the transaction Tuesday, Pagenhardt said.

Yoder said the deal will sustain the publicly-funded enterprise.

“I think it’s a pretty successful outcome in terms of keeping what we have out here, keeping the whole outdoor-recreation brand alive in the county,” Yoder said.

The center’s executive director, two-time Olympian Matt Taylor, said he’s leaving to become executive director of the Westwind Stewardship Group in Otis, Ore. Westwind owns 529 acres of mostly undeveloped coastal land used for outdoor education activities.

Yoder said Taylor’s departure wasn’t due to Adventure Sports’ financial problems.

Taylor said the Adventure Sports complex, which also includes 550 wooded acres, remains a relevant and exciting part of the Deep Creek Lake resort area.

“The ultimate long-term sustainability of any nonprofit or public entity can be a challenge because of the economy,” Taylor said.

The $17.7 million project was built with $6.1 million from the county, $5.8 million from the state and $2.6 million in federal funds. The 1,700-foot, recirculating whitewater course is used by both raft-riding tourists and world-class athletes.

Unexpected construction costs led the center to borrow $3.2 million from Susquehanna Bank and First United Bank & Trust. The center defaulted on the loans after D.C. Development LLC, the struggling owner of the nearby Wisp ski resort, stopped making $180,000 annual payments to the center for marketing services.

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