Ask Governor Pat McCrory to amend his proposed budget eliminating the operation of Old Fort's Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center. For decades, the museum has been an integral part of the Old Fort Community and is a popular tourist destination. Governor McCrory's budget must be changed.
Old Fort is a small town of fewer than 1,000 residents, located just off I-40 at Exit 73 between Asheville and Hickory. While it is ideally situated and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Old Fort is like most small, southern towns and is struggling financially, having lost the bulk of its manufacturing businesses.
Tourism is an asset with the ability to positively impact the local economy. Mountain Gateway Museum interprets the pioneer-era heritage of the North Carolina mountains. It also hosts three, large annual festivals; April's Pioneer Day followed by the N.C. Gold Festival on the first Saturday in June and Old Fort's Octoberfest on the first Saturday in October. Two bicycle races bring hundreds of visitors with the Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell and the Jerdon Mountain Challenge. Having become known for these bicycle events, a new race is scheduled for the summer of 2013. These festivals and races attract thousands of visitors to the town.
The museum's main building was constructed during the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration. It's constructed primarily from local river rock. The site also includes two period log cabins.
The museum hosts a variety of seasonal programming, all at no cost to participants. Sunday afternoons include a free, bluegrass jam on the front porch. Visitors learn how to tie flies, cast a line, grow traditional vegetable gardens and more! It's a true, hands on educational site.
Old Fort is designated as a N.C. Mountain Trout Town. Mountain Gateway Museum was an integral part of the town's designation because of its location on the banks of Mill Creek. The museum acts as the hub for visitors interested in trout fishing. A free, tackle loaner program is available to children under the age of 16 and everyone has access to the stocked trout stream joining the museum property. Along with the designation, is a specialty fishing license allowing the owner to fish any N.C. Mountain Trout Town stream for 3 days at a cost of $9.00. Quite a savings from the traditional fishing license!
For decades, the museum grounds have served as a venue for weddings, reunions, birthdays and other local celebrations. Shaded picnic grounds and a performance amphitheater create an inviting venue for any occasion at an extremely reasonable cost.
Mountain Gateway Museum is the ONLY state owned museum in western North Carolina. It also provides support services to 30 other non-profit museums in the western part of the state. Their workshop and staff train other museum staff on a variety of museum related tasks including exhibit creation, set up and display. MGM also manages an exhibit "loan program" to area museums.
Please tell North Carolina's Governor McCrory and members of the North Carolina General Assembly to keep Mountain Gateway Museum OPEN and operating for generations to come. With such low operating costs, surely the legislature will reconsider this small investment compared to the positive, economic benefits it provides to resident and businesses in Old Fort. The museum teaches important lessons, messages that are invaluable to all of us and its relationship with the Old Fort community is irreplaceable.
Your support is needed and appreciated!