Cabela’s Is Our Area’s Answer to Tamarack

The idea of a “Tamarack North” has been attractive to some area residents for several years. In a sense, we already have it in the form of Cabela’s at the gigantic Highlands development in Ohio County.

But do we even want a carbon copy of the original Tamarack, just off the West Virginia Turnpike at Beckley? Maybe not, at least from a financial standpoint.

Tamarack is in a bit of trouble because it continues to lose money for the state, at the rate of about $1 million a year. Some state legislators have demanded that it be turned into a profit maker — or be abandoned. I don’t think an approach that drastic is good for West Virginia — for all of us, north and south.

Originally established to provide a showcase for Mountain State artisans of all talents, Tamarack has done an excellent job in that respect. Beautiful creations — everything from folk art to paintings that could hang anywhere, marvelous sculptures, delicious, unusual foods; and books reflecting our unique heritage, to name a few — can be found in one place at Tamarack. It offers a marketplace for mountain artisans as well as an attraction for tourists.

Tourism is big, big business in West Virginia — and our attraction is, well, us. By that I mean that our mountains and streams bring hundreds of thousands of people in each year. Our people complement the natural splendor. Nowhere else, to my knowledge, can people anything like West Virginians — and I mean this as a compliment — be found. Much of what we have created and continue to create, including art and craft work such as that on display at Tamarack, is considered beautiful by outsiders — in part intrinsically and in part because it reminds those who have visited here of us.

That’s why Tamarack is valuable to us. That’s why the bottom line on some accountant’s spreadsheet shouldn’t be the last word on whether the center is successful (though, of course, West Virginians can’t afford to be wasteful; Tamarack’s bottom line does need to be improved).

And that’s why a “Tamarack North” might be good for not just our region of West Virginia, but also for the state as a whole. It would enhance the experience of visitors to northern West Virginia — and probably would attract more.

Back to whether the state ought to establish a “Tamarack North.” Now, with so many other needs as well as a downturn in the economy on the horizon, probably isn’t an auspicious time to ask anyone in Charleston to lay out the start-up money for such a center. That isn’t even to mention the year-by-year operating losses. So we probably can’t expect a “Tamarack North” in the near future.

Besides, we already have something of the sort — Cabela’s.

Cabela’s is a mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts and, after all, that’s what West Virginia is all about to many of them. In addition to being an unsurpassed emporium for outdoor recreation goods, Cabela’s is a fascinating place to visit. The freshwater aquarium alone is worth a trip. Throw in all the other exhibits, and Cabela’s is to outdoor recreation what Tamarack is to arts and crafts.

t is an attraction in its own right — and, located as it is along Interstate 70, it brings many, many out-of-state visitors to West Virginia. Who knows? Having been exposed to our state, some may decide to try out those new hiking boots or that new canoe on our mountains or in our streams.

???

An old friend, Charles DeLauder, is wrapping up his term as president of the West Virginia Education Association. I’ve known DeLauder, a Tyler County educator, for years. Though we haven’t always seen eye to eye, I respect him greatly. His heart is in the right place. DeLauder, through his own life, understands the importance of education — and he is convinced firmly that West Virginia needs to devote more resources to it.

Though, of course, one of DeLauder’s priorities has been to serve WVEA members, that isn’t by far his only concern. One of his worries, as he told me last year, is that not enough attention is being given to student with outstanding potential. I agree with him that the youngster overlooked in the drive to leave no child behind may, as he put it, have been “the next Einstein” had he or she gotten more stimulus and help in school.

And he’s right: Why can’t we do both? That is, why can’t we provide the help challenged students need while also boosting the future Einsteins?

WVEA members owe DeLauder their gratitude for a job well done as their president. I’ll miss him in that role — but I’m confident he’ll leave even more marks on education during coming years.

Mike Myer can be reached via e-mail at: Myer@news-register.net.