Pilot Mountain: Asleep at the wheel for tourism

To the Editor,

Like many income-strapped in the NC Foothills, I look to local resources and opportunities to supplement income. Not just me but my millennial offspring see little opportunity for employment in Stokes and Surry and I assume this is common in many rural counties.

Luckily, the influx or flood of wineries in the region along with elevating the soul at Hanging Rock or Pilot Knob have attracted a multitude of travelers to the area prompting many locals to offer vacation lodging for the weekend sightseers to help pay bills and fortify the local economy.

According to NC State Parks government website, Pilot Mountain State Park visitation grew over 50 percent in 2016 from roughly 510,000 in 2015 to over 771,000, exceeding nearby Hanging Rock numbers by over 120,000. The current and sad reality for the Town of Pilot Mountain is the lack of night life and dining to accommodate and reap the benefit of so many out-of-town or out-of-state visitors of all ages and diversity. In fact, the town of Pilot Mountain has experienced more small business closings in 2017 than locals would ever imagine.

This has left many of us wondering how the town plans to keep up and capitalize on the burgeoning tourism market triggered by viticulture and vanishing wilderness interests this area can exclusively offer so close to the Triad, Triangle and halfway between much of the northern U.S. and Florida.

We’ve seen the closing of the highly rated Goodtimes Bar-b-cue who abandoned there indoor dining with live entertainment in favor of a food truck service. In the aftermath of the New River Tire facility fire that burned and continued to smolder throughout the area for months from December through February of 2016, perhaps, the food truck was a good time and opportunity to avoid such environmental negligence just across the road from the Goodtimes restaurant on the Highway 52 Bypass.

The Living Room Coffee House and Wine Bar scored consistent high marks from Yelp to Trip Advisor, but closed their doors the last day of 2017, leaving a large void for visitors to dine with wine and beer options in downtown Pilot Mountain. Travelers and locals did have a $40 membership/bar tab opportunity to enjoy some spirits with friends at Pub 109 conveniently located next to the popular Soppers restaurant where alcohol is not available on menu as a before or after dinner alcohol option. Unfortunately, the private club was raided in August and closed by local police for inconclusive reasons as the facility’s owner was never charged with a violation.

As vacation season is soon to begin in the Foothills, Pilot Mountain proper seems poised to miss out on potential foot traffic from Pilot Mountain State Park and other local interests that VRBO and Airbnb subscribers, like myself, are eager to support. The sharing community would love to have more cafés, eateries and libation to offer, suggest to vacationers as we wonder whether town officials might also have concerns for the vanishing small business of entertaining our guests. We are looking to help secure a healthy return on our park’s popularity for Pilot Mountain and the community.

A concerned member of NC Foothills Sharing Community.

Carey Sams

Pilot Mountain