COMMENTARY: Choosing Senior Wellness Complex over Adventure Park is wise

by Aug 6, 2019OPINIONS





My daughter, who is now a sophomore at the University of Iowa, was merely 9-months-old when the Tribal Planning Board brought in the first legislation dealing with building a water park (referred to as an Adventure Park later) in Cherokee.  I’m glad that tribal leaders seem to have finally nixed the idea of an Adventure Park entirely and are going to focus on building a Senior Wellness Complex, under the purview of the Cherokee Indian Hospital, to include a new Tsali Care Center, a new Dialysis Center, a site for an assisted living center, as well as service areas for memory care and adult day services.

Tribal Council passed legislation during its recent Budget Council session on Tuesday, Aug. 6 to construct the Complex.  The legislation was submitted by Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose, Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, and Dr. Blythe Winchester.  All three should be commended for finally helping to put a dying project out of its misery and moving forward with much-needed services for the treasured elders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

After some discussion on the legislation, Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said his office was looking at the Long Blanket Tract for the new Complex and was currently garnering renderings for the project.  Now, just to remind everyone, that is the tract that was set aside awhile ago for the Adventure Park.  “We would like Council to approve using the Long Blanket Tract where we had originally planned to put the Adventure Park which really seems to have lost momentum because of the high development cost of the site for putting that particular project there,” he said.

He told Council that the site prep for the Adventure Park project alone was $20 million.

Council decided on the Long Blanket Tract for the new Complex – a much better use of the area in my opinion.  Tribal leaders agree that the spot, which is around 20 acres, is ideally suited for the new Complex.

“Having it in close proximity to the hospital makes the most sense,” said Chief Sneed.

Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley commented, “I think this is a project that we all know our communities want and need.  I think a close proximity to the hospital would be a great location.”

Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha said, “I don’t think the adventure park is going anywhere.  We’ve got some other opportunity across the mountain that they might want to look at for commercial property.  I think that the communities have spoken and said they’d like to see the health care campus up here.”

I was never sold on the idea of an Adventure Park in Cherokee.  There are several like this just over the mountain in Tennessee, and the competition would be fierce.  The project came into Council in September 2002 as a resolution (Res. No. 502 – 2002) from the Tribal Planning Board and stated, “…requests have been made by the community to develop a skate park, theater, bowling alley, and a water park.”

Well, three of those have been built.  The water park has just never gotten off the ground.

In 2010, Council approved $225,000 (Res. No. 333 – 2010) to be paid to Iconica Inc. “to begin the developmental process started with a detailed Feasibility Phase”.   Two years later, Council passed legislation (Res. No. 252 – 2012) which authorized the Office of the Treasurer and the EBCI Division of Commerce “to explore and secure financing options for the Cherokee Adventure Park project for an amount up to $95,000,000”.  In 2017, Council passed another piece of legislation (Res. No. 485 – 2016) dealing with the Adventure Park – this one instructed the Division of Commerce and the TCGE to bring forth a plan for the project “not to exceed $180 million dollars”.

Well, it was never built – but, we all know that.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault per se.  It just wasn’t a project that could ever gain any momentum.  It was year after year of start and stop.  And, now it seems to have finally stopped.

With the Kituwah LLC on board now, I hope the days of projects hanging around for years and years is over.  I doubt they will quibble over a project for too long – time wasted is money wasted, and I don’t get the impression from anyone involved with that organization that they like to waste either.

To all of those people who worked on the Adventure Park project over the years, many of whom are my friends, I want to say good job!  You ladies and gentlemen did what you were asked to do time and time again, and it became tiresome watching you have to make the same style pitch over and over and over and over again…I cannot imagine your thoughts on the subject.

But, I digress.

The new Senior Wellness Complex sounds like an amazing idea, and I feel it will serve the elder population of the Tribe for years to come.  Now, we are all eager to see the renderings.