Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cost of rural Ga. fishing museum causing a stink

A rural Georgia fishing museum may have been designed to provide families an affordable way to experience one of the state's biggest attractions, but now it is used as an example of wasteful government spending. The Go Fish Georgia Educational Center is located in Perry, Ga., population about 13,000. (Photo, left,  by Rich Addicks for The New York Times; a largemouth bass dominates the hatchery display at Go Fish Georgia Educational Center.)

The $1.6 million yearly operating costs are financed by the state government thanks to a 2007 bill. "Republicans and Democrats alike groaned over $1.6 million a year in bond payments and operating costs," Robbie Brown of The New York Times reports. "And even supporters concede that the museum would never have gotten financed in 2007 if the legislature knew where the economy was headed."

The $14 million facility includes allows visitors to watch bream and bass swim in aquarium-size tanks,  play with an interactive model of a fishing boat and try to catch fish on a computer simulation, Brown writes. For Michael Morris and his 2-year-old son, Jacob, their weekly trips to the museum cost just $5 thanks to the government financing. "We simply can’t afford it — not in this economy," Debbie Dooley, the Georgia coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, who likened the museum to Alaska’s infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," told Brown. "When you want to talk about wasteful spending in Georgia, the first thing everyone brings up is Go Fish."

The museum has also drawn criticism for its rural location. The facility was built in the home county of then Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and is more than 100 miles from both Atlanta and the Atlantic Coast. Perdue maintains the site was chosen due to its proximity to Interstate 75 and the state fair, Brown reports. "Since it opened, the museum has drawn a small but steady crowd," Brown writes. Economists say fishing has a $1.5 billion a year impact on Georgia's economy. "But for years, Georgia has lagged behind all neighboring states in fishing tourism," Brown writes. "It ranks sixth in the nation in sending its fishermen to other states and 22nd in luring fishermen from elsewhere." (Read more)

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