Throwback Thursday got me thinking about the Visitor Centers I have opened over the years and how very different they were. The first one was the doozy, no question. The Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park, in Cambridge (circa 2000) was funded by the State of MD more than 3 million dollars. After a major lobbying effort in Annapolis the Visitor Center was funded, but the sail, the central design element in the project was cut. We went back and got the rest of the funding the next year. Here’s the punchline: when the building was finally built ( a project managed by SHA- the County was the tenant),it then survived a catastrophic noreaster’ that blew down the sail, then a fire. Once rebuilt the sail went up, and now it greets all who cross the Choptank River Bridge on Rt. 50 welcomes tens of thousands of visitors a year with exhibits. Those of us involved at the time were passionate about getting the visitor center funded because we saw it as the catalyst to move Dorchester forward, Symbolically and literally. This visitor center is a monument to persistence of a community. and maybe a few design flaws. It is an attraction in itself- you should check it out, especially now that you know the story and my special connection to the building. I even designed the welcome aboard sign.
Fast forward a few years and I’m in Havre de Grace opening a visitor center in a former police station. I walked in to a small building perfectly suited for the cause. I think the City spent 50,000 on the interior retrofit and donations of services and goods from the community. More than 15 years later, Staffed by volunteers and City tourism coordinators- this visitor center is like a community hub and truly the best spot for newcomers to get an orientation of the town. At the end of the day, one was done the easy way, and one was done the beaurocratic way. Still very proud of both projects because today both are an asset to their community and a great way to begin an exploration.