By DEBBIE WISE
Welcome to South Carolina – even though you crossed the border two hours ago
Over the summer I went to visit a friend who lives on Lake Marion in Santee, South Carolina. For those of you who don’t know the town, Santee is just off I-95, roughly half way between Columbia and Charleston. It’s a tiny place. Population, roughly 2,000. Median income, according to Census data, is $22,292. The town gets some traffic from golfers and fishermen, but not a lot happens there.
Leaving all that aside, though, it’s in the middle of the state. Why is there a welcome center there? I mean no disrespect to the place, which is a lovely town in its way, but who is this welcome center supposed to welcome?
According to Google Maps, the Santee Welcome Center is 107 miles from the Georgia border with South Carolina and 101 miles from the North Carolina border with South Carolina. Welcome centers should be at the border, right? They’re there to welcome people coming into the state. You put welcome centers near the border for the same reason you put welcome mats at the front door.
Further digging revealed South Carolina has one welcome center each on the border of Georgia and North Carolina on I-95.
The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism notes that the welcome centers “are, in essence, the front porch of our state and, as such, often create a critical first impression for visitors to South Carolina.” According to the FY2015-2016 budget, the Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism spends $5.2 million on nine welcome centers.
The Santee Welcome Center “is strategically located Southbound on I-95.”
Uh . . . how is putting a “welcome” center in the middle of the state in any way “strategic”? Why have we put the front porch in the middle of the house? Is there, or was there, a powerful legislator from the area who wanted a boondoggle project there for whatever reason? I don’t get it.
Debbie Wise and her husband ran a hotel for nearly 30 years. They are retired and live in Greenville.