CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center has been pretty lonely these days, but around the back at the Elk River, the city is betting on this new kayak ramp to bring life and dollars back into the struggling local tourism economy.
“Right now we need to think of creative ways that are going to get people out in a safe, socially distant manner and still generate revenue for the city — and this right here is going to do it,” said Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin.
The kayak ramp is the first of its kind along the river and it cost the city $70,000.
That’s money hard to come by these days for the city.
“COVID-19 taught us what we need to be spending our money on and investing in, and without a doubt — outdoor recreation is something not only the city of Charleston but the rest of the cities in the country are investing in,” she said.
With so many riverfront events canceled this year because of the pandemic, the Mayor says the city has lost millions in expected revenue, although the exact number can be hard to pinpoint.
Charleston’s Convention and Visitor Bureau’s President Tim Brady says they may never know just how much money was lost because of the tourism industry’s trickle-down effect.
“We’ve had to pivot, with the lack of events, we’re shifting our focus to getting local people out to support our local tourism economy safely and responsibly,” Brady said.
Mayor Goodwin says the businesses that have done well during COVID-19 are those who have been nimble and have readjusted their business plan, and she adds that last year’s tax receipts for the same quarter in Charleston were the highest they’d ever been.
“Charleston was on a huge upward trajectory, so we want to get back there but people have to be patient,” she said.
The kayak ramp is open to the public from 7 a.m. until sundown, the city hopes it’s the first of more to come.