Development ahoy!

Published 8:04 am Sunday, March 8, 2009

By Staff
We applaud the efforts of the Blackbeard Adventure Alliance to build a replica of the famous pirate’s vessel.
It will probably be tough for them to raise the money they need, but they have hit on a key concept: Blackbeard was all about Bath. It’s where he hobnobbed with the governor and his secretary and where he more or less hid out.
But in Bath, the most prominent mention of Blackbeard is at Blackbeard’s Slices and Ices. It’s one of our favorite Italian places, no doubt, but it doesn’t quite live up to the potential for swabbie-based tourism.
Now the time has come to plunder Blackbeard’s legacy for the economic development it offers. It may seem a bit rude, but it’s not as if Blackbeard himself let niceties or manners stand in his path to prosperity. Bath, and Beaufort County in general, are in prime position to market themselves using Blackbeard.
Places with tentative ties — Bristol, England, where he might have come from, for example — have Blackbeard-related tourism. But one of the few places we know he spent time has almost nothing related to him.
This isn’t a failing of the Town of Bath. It has an excellent historic site, and plenty of green space at key vistas. Now the chance is there for some enterprising entrepreneur to make something more of that opportunity.
We’d be delighted if the Blackbeard Adventure Alliance is the group that fills that role. If they do, there is still room for more historical marketing based on piracy. And if the ship doesn’t come to fruition — a specter its $5 million budget raises — others still have an opportunity.
Our county has more than 9 percent unemployment, and tourist dollars would be welcome.
But beyond just putting in an exhibit or museum or ship or show, we have to make sure people can get to Bath. The drive from Interstate 95, Raleigh and other major sources of tourists isn’t bad, though they probably don’t know that. We should publicize how easy the drive is.
And a better north-south highway would also help us draw tourists.
This is hardly the first time we’ve said that expanding U.S. Highway 17 would be a good idea, but Blackbeard-based tourism in Bath would be helped enormously if someone finally turned it into a continuous four-lane road.
And we’re hardly the first to say that an upscale hotel or two in Washington’s downtown would offer tourists a great place to stop and spend the night if they intend to tour Bath.
We are home to one of the most-recognized brands in history, and we’re doing almost nothing with it. The Alliance has taken a first step to fix that.
Others should step up too.