Heritage Center project needs funding
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 18, 2011 1:46 PM
A project that could "redefine" Wayne County and bring thousands of tourists to Goldsboro each month is shovel ready, its creator says, but construction of the First People Heritage Center remains more of an "if" than a "when," as supporters continue their attempt to raise the $3 million-plus it will take to make their vision a reality.
But if a local Native American's plan comes to fruition, an igloo, wigwam and turtle garden, he is certain, would make Waynesborough Park, at last, a destination.
Goldsboro resident Dream-weaver has said for years that if eastern North Carolina became the first region to construct an Eastern Woodland Indian market -- one that puts art and traditions from multiple tribes on display -- tourism dollars would flood into whichever county gives it a home.
But while the Wayne government remains seemingly supportive of the project -- Dreamweaver said County Manager Lee Smith has insisted county commissioners would not rule out helping to fund the project if the community was behind it -- Travel and Tourism Director Betsy Rosemann gave him a different answer: The Occupancy Tax Fund coffer was only to be used for construction of a Civic Center.
So when the Goldsboro City Council recently voted to use that same fund to foot the bill for the purchase of the Arts Council of Wayne County headquarters as the future home of an Air Force Museum, it was puzzling to the man who spent countless months ensuring all questions about his attraction had been answered -- the designs are complete, a board of directors is in place, construction plans are finished, six tribes have agreed to participate in monthly powwows at the site and operating costs for the first three years are included in the bottom line.
"Our project could have been funded for pretty much the same amount (it will cost) to buy the (Arts Council) building, renovate it and everything else," Dreamweaver said. "For the same amount of money, we could have had a really unique tourist attraction that already has everything in place to operate it and there's no question about how it is going to be done. We know what the outcomes are going to be. We know what we're going to do. But we were told the money had to be used for a Civic Center. ... So that pretty much rules out the city's involvement in this."
The plans, completed using input from East Carolina University students, call for four, 2,500 square-foot buildings that blend ancient Native American tradition and modern technology -- constructed within four sections of a medicine wheel.
One of them will house a museum -- and exhibits that rotate monthly based on which tribe is being featured.
Another resembles a wigwam.
And the other two buildings will be built in the spirit of the Tuscarora, the tribe that once inhabited eastern North Carolina -- it will contain artists studios, two dorm rooms and retail space and the venue will also house Native American gardens.
But perhaps the most unique part of the design is a turtle garden.
"Can't you imagine the grandmothers having to bring their grandchildren back once a week just to watch the turtles," Dreamweaver said.
Dreamweaver hopes to raise the funding necessary to complete the project via state and federal grants and contributions from local government bodies, but donations from the public are welcome and will be critical to reaching the goal of completing the project by 2013.
"We're pretty much shovel ready," he said. "We really are just waiting for the funding."
Those interesting in supporting the project can find more information -- from its history to the designs -- online at www.firstpeopleheritagecenter.com