Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tell Explore Guy To Make His Decision Now
It is time--in the vernacular of our historic ancestors--for the Virginia Recreational Facilities Authority to tell Larry Vander Maten to poop or get off the pot and for the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors to back up that demand.
Vander Maten is, of course, the man who has proposed a $200 million infusion into Virginia's Explore, a modest, but appealing educational facility along the Roanoke River whose mission has changed at least twice in its tw0 decades of existence. What began as something of a theme park with a grand plan morphed into an historic teaching park and under Vander Maten's plan would become a family vacation spot with all the bells and whistles (except, perhaps, accessibility).
Because the economy went into the tank about five minutes after Roanoke County granted Vander Maten a 99-year lease on the property in order to get it financed, developed and running, the entire plan has been in limbo. The county has--understandably, perhaps--granted extension after extension to Vander Maten in order to allow him to put together the package.
But now, he appears to be a little more cranky than hye was before, a little less positive that he can do what he wants to do, though he wants another year to think about it. The county should simply tell him it is not interested in waiting any longer. Apparently, "several companies have expressed interest in" parts of the project, according to the local daily in Roanoke and even if they don't follow through, that would not represent a change in the status quo. Nothing's happening now and something needs to happen before Explore falls into disrepair and decay.
Vander Maten, according to the story, has "refused to help fund maintenance" of Explore for the next year. Buildings, like people, die when they don't get attention. And we don't want Explore and all its wonderful potential to die.