Commissioners continue to weigh Baileys Trail funding

December 26, 2019

By: Heather Willard

Another lengthy discussion involving the Athens County Commissioners has resulted in no vote and no decision on whether the county will financially support the Baileys Trail Project.

Last week, the Commissioners went to Chauncey for a site visit on the trail, but high water did not allow for a trail visit. Instead, they discussed the project with the many stakeholders who had tagged along — the U.S. Forest Service, ODNR, HAPCAP and numerous other groups were represented. On Monday, the conversation continued, this time with the Athens County Economic Development Council, Athens County Visitor’s Bureau and the U.S. Forest Service.

Only Commissioners Charlie Adkins and Chris Chmiel are participating in the conversation as Lenny Eliason sits on the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia (ORCA) and has recused himself from all conversations out of an abundance of caution. Currently, the commissioners have been asked to give $90,000 a year to the project for the next 20 years, amounting to about $1.8 million overall. The city of Athens has already agreed to pay this same amount.

Paige Alost, executive director of the Athens County Visitor’s Bureau, presented the commissioners with a rundown on tourist numbers in the county. She noted that unless there is a significant increase in temporary stay infrastructure, there will be displacement of current visitors within city properties. She expressed some concern that this could push the “regular” visitors out of the area and just replacing them with trail riders.

She noted that there are about 780 rooms available each night in Athens county — 700 of which are hotel rooms, and about 80 or so Airbnb’s exist to make up the rest. She noted that it would take about 57,780 rooms annually — 214 rooms per night for nine months — to generate just over $54,000 in county sales tax if the average daily rate was $75.

However, the transient guest tax would be split with the city of Athens for all stays within the city limits. With that limitation, Alost calculated that it would take about 80,000 rooms annually — 296 rooms per night for nine months — to generate $90,000 if the average daily stay rate was $75.

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