SNOW HILL — Even without any state funding this year, Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger asserted that the Pocomoke Visitor’s Center was in good shape and might soon expand.
“The welcome center is doing great and performing under budget,” said Challenger at a county budget review Tuesday.
Last year was the first that the center operated directly under county control. Prior to that, it was a state run operation. However, the state decided to turn over the center to Worcester County due to budget worries.
Under county supervision, the center’s hours were expanded, with the facility now running five days a week, up from four. Challenger told the commissioners Tuesday that there was talk of expanding those hours of operation over the summer.
“Our goal is to have it open seven days a week,” she said.
Running full time might be a challenge for the center with its current budget, however.
During its first year under county control, the state provided $50,000 in funding to help ease the transition. However, now that Worcester has a firm grip on the reins, Maryland has withdrawn completely, leaving the county as the sole budgeter.
“It’s 100 percent funded by the county,” Challenger said.
Even without state aid, though, Challenger informed the commission that the center was prospering.
“It’s very efficiently run,” she said in way of explanation. “It really runs on shoestrings.”
According to Challenger, the center is among the most visited in the state, with more than 200,000 stopping and going annually.
“It gets a lot of use,” she confirmed.
Challenger added that, for the coming year, the center would be focusing on exhibits that highlight each of the areas that make up Worcester County. Each unique municipality or town will have its own photo exhibit featuring pictures that define the area. For example, Berlin will have snapshots of its historic Main St, while the Ocean City’s showcase will focus on the Boardwalk and beach. Joining Ocean City and Berlin will be Pocomoke, Snow Hill and Ocean Pines. All five photography showcases should be installed within the next month.
But beyond those displays, Challenger stated that the center was still considering what else to do in the coming year. Some options include beginning retail sales at the location in an attempt to generate more revenue. Challenger also pointed out that the town of Berlin would be privately renting out display space in addition to the photo showcase and she encouraged any other towns or municipalities interested in jumpstarting their own tourist season to do the same.