A ‘Welcome Center’ in the Middle of the State?

September 22, 2016

Citizen Scoops

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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.

  • Squishy123

    So, which legislature family member is employed there?

  • Ron Nester

    Get your facts straight for posting.

    • colnzgprnts

      Your post indicates there might be some inaccuracies in this article. Might you be amenable to sharing your knowledge?

  • TrikkiNikki

    My guess…and this is a PURE GUESS….is they built this welcome center back in the day when there were actually retail outlets, lots of golfers and fisherman visiting Santee, SC. Back in the 90’s or early 2000’s nearly all of the outlets closed, the golf courses are mostly terrible and the fishing is decent, but it’s right downstream from a toxic waste dump so why would anybody want to come visit this place?? Sort of like why did they build (and now it’s closed) a rest area going westbound in between Charleston and Summerville on I-26?

    • jim anderson

      “Lots of room to walk dogs and stretch your legs.”
      “Clean restrooms, great place to stop and get out and walk.”

      Actually, of the 9 or 10 centers around the state, i think this was a wise choice to spread the gospel of SC tourism. i even like the idea of calling it a “Welcome” center instead of saying “reststop”. Maybe they’ll pick up some pamphlets while taking a break. (SC visitor spending reaches record $16.5 billion – the state MAY 5, 2013)

      Course, if its an adventure you want, try UFO Welcome Center (4004 Homestead Rd, Bowman, SC 29018)

      The UFO Welcome Center is a tourist curiosity located in Bowman, South Carolina, built in the back yard of Jody Pendarvis. It consists of a 42-foot-wide flying saucer (13 m) built out of wood, fiberglass, and plastic. The structure, entered by a powered ramp, is mounted on four columns, designed to raise and lower with motors. In addition to a labyrinth of mechanical and electronic salvage parts, the saucer is furnished with a bed, satellite television, air conditioning, toilet, and a shower. Pendarvis envisioned himself as being an ambassador to aliens and wanted to provide a facility where they could rest after a long journey on UFOs.

      BTW…be ready to drop $20 for entrance.

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