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A reminder of Camden’s charm

Posted: October 27, 2011 8:38 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Camden was at its finest last weekend when the Steeplechase Museum put on a very successful antique show bringing in dealers from seven states, buyers from as far away as Ohio and Alabama and visitors who stayed at our hotels, ate at our restaurants and supported what Camden has to offer. The antique show was held at the Rhame Arena that was transformed into a beautiful exhibition building. Everyone was impressed with what was done to a building that has been utterly neglected and is now is being cast aside for something newer that can't be used for events like this. With our talented local architects who understand Camden's architecture and history it seems this building could be refurbished and be more attractive using far fewer of the hospitality tax dollars than building a new facility that will be privately run and be considerably less versatile and less available for hosting events that range from antique shows to athletic events, animal shows to political events and more.

If removing Rhame Arena is part of a plan to meet National Park Service criteria, then can we assume demolishing Zemp football stadium is next? What will that and rebuilding it somewhere else cost us? Why not use some of the hospitality tax to advertise Camden and what is here? How about a series of attractive billboards along the interstate alerting the travelers to the history, horses and antiques just a mile from the exchange? Why not continue to fund Main Street projects that make downtown not only physically more appealing, but that advertise what our merchants have to offer -- fine dining, antiquing and visiting niche or unique shops that offer what our big box shopping centers cannot and do not offer. Why not help them become the vibrant center of our downtown around which we can attract even more of these kinds of businesses. The more of that kind of charming revitalization we can achieve, the more attractive Camden will become to visitors and those looking for the perfect place to live.

Building a sports complex that will either compete with existing private businesses or duplicate services already provided by the County or both is seemingly not very well thought out. I don’t know many people who move to or stay in places because there is a sports facility. However, I do know people who moved here years ago because it was a beautiful town, others who visited for various events and subsequently retired here, and I know many who moved here with what was then DuPont, and stayed because Camden was so special. In these tough economic times, it would seem that making the most of what we have, refurbishing, replenishing and attracting more people, businesses and jobs should come before other projects that, in better, more fluid times might be affordable “icing on the cake.” I believe this is the prudent approach to best care for and grow Camden while being good stewards of the public trust and maintaining that intangible quality that makes our town so wonderful.

My thanks to the Steeplechase Museum and their fabulous committee that made the Camden Antiques Fair a very productive and fun adventure. Next year promises to be even bigger and better and it shows that we can attract new visitors and prospective residents who will support what we have to offer. We need to and can make Camden that town you originally come just to visit but find you are drawn back again and again.

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