The National Wild Turkey Federation spoke to two different groups this week in order to raise awareness of their Hunting Heritage Center and Palmetto Shooting Complex projects. Below are two reports from the meetings, the first from The Edgefield County Alliance meeting held Tuesday, January 20th, and the second from a presentation to local officials, and community leaders held at NWTF headquarters, Thursday, January 22.
“Our Vision Becoming a Reality”
George Thornton on NWTF Project
One gentleman entering the County Council Chambers in Edgefield on Tuesday morning explained his tardiness as having “gone to the wrong meeting place.” A retort came quickly: “Hard to do in Edgefield (implying too few meeting places).” This was a perfect entry for the information that followed: Edgefield through the NWTF will have many more meeting places to offer as pointed out by their CEO George Thornton in his remarks before the Edgefield County Alliance Tuesday morning.
National Wild Turkey Federation is driving much curiosity about the program they are projecting – not just projecting, but is well underway – and it is driving hopes for economic growth in this area. And the area includes three towns noted by CEO Thornton in his remarks: They are Edgefield, Johnston and Ridge Spring.
It was former Mayor Andy Livingston who proposed that leaders draw some kind of name for a triangulation of these three towns, something like the Golden Triangle of cities of North Carolina. Thornton mentioned them as destinations for visitors spilling over from NWTF’s Palmetto Shooting Complex Project .
CEO Thornton gave a full Powerpoint presentation of numbers, statistics, and maps to confirm the growth expected. (These numbers have been published in this newspaper in an edition last year.) This program has multiple avenues for training, teaching and convening around the Hunt and the Habitats, using conservation as a base for its drive
There are 700 acres now mapped out for these training and teaching events, to reach not only adults but children and women, specifically. Thornton says many more women are joining in the shooting and the hunt than ever before. And “shooting” is not just with guns; archery probably holds more numbers of shooters than guns. And learning to shoot can be done at the multiple clay-shooting areas on this huge campus.
Already, for the next 24 months, 27 events have been planned, each bringing in hundreds to thousands of visitors, who may have wives or partners who need their own “entertainment” during this time. Thornton points out that there is a need for new restaurants (“at least two good ones”) and hotel/motel rooms as well as catering businesses and skilled cleaners to help in the housing and feeding of those on the campus.
Thus new jobs are in order. Already NWTF has hired 6 new employees, with the potential for ten more being hired.
Also there will be many RV hook-ups, possibly not enough. They will need their own steaks for cooking for themselves (purchasing of food in the communities).
During Question and Answer time, it was noted by one attendee that entrepreneurs are in order here — folks who know how to build a catering or cleaning business. He asked if the schools taught entrepreneurship. One PTC employee was there to answer, Yes, for the College. Not sure about the high schools in the county.
In the area of Habitats, Thornton noted that there would be demonstrations given at the campus on restoration of habitats and management of hunting areas. This led into the loss of habitats over the years, one being the long leaf pine forest. He noted that at the time of America’s beginning, there were 88 million acres of the long leaf pine virgin forest. Now there are 3000. But much is being done to recreate these virginal forests with the planting of long leaf pine which provide a great habitat for animals and certain plants.
NWTF has joined with governmental organizations (Forestry and DNR) as well as other conservation groups (Ducks, Pheasants) to organize and bring about these efforts mentioned above. A huge lobbying group, one would say.
Among the many new buildings going up on this 18 million dollar campus is one inspired by a building at Fort Benning where Thornton attended a conference. The Ft. Benning building is now under National Preservation Registry as it was a hunting lodge for Gen. Patton and where he invited many colleagues (Eisenhower among them) to hunt and enjoy their company. This building is called the Roundhouse and will soon be under construction. Not only will its 6400 square feet be available for NWTF interests, but it will be available for public and private gatherings. (No more “hard to find in Edgefield” comments.)
His words were that they (NWTF) needed to “walk the talk” and so was born the Palmetto Shooting Complex – “Our Vision Becoming a Reality.” According to Thornton it has been developed as “a national [attraction].”
And the attendees were invited to come see the campus in progress.
NWTF Building a Conservation Legacy
At a recent meeting of local county and city officials, National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) CEO George Thornton shared the vision for the organization’s Hunting Heritage Center. The world-class center being built on the 700-acre NWTF property in Edgefield is the combined site of the Palmetto Shooting Complex and the Outdoor Education Center.
“Hunters and recreational shooters play a vital role in this country accounting for 80 percent of the funding for habitat and wildlife conservation projects through hunting license purchases and excise taxes on firearms and ammunition,” said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. “The Hunting Heritage Center will serve to preserve our hunting heritage and foster the next generation of shooting sports enthusiasts; our habitat and wildlife depend on it.”
Meeting attendees learned about more than the vision. They were informed of the influx of tourists and the economic impact the Hunting Heritage Center would make on the region. Attendance projections number nearly 50,000 annually just for shooting and education events. Normal daily traffic would drive the projections even higher.
Some phases of the Hunting Heritage Center are still in development but that has not slowed the buzz surrounding the complex. Several large events have been scheduled for Palmetto Shooting Complex this year. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) sporting clays youth open is scheduled for mid-April. The South Carolina 4H program has two shoots scheduled for June.
The NWTF also has scheduled events for the Palmetto Shooting Complex; its annual Turkey Shoot, one of the nation’s largest sanctioned sporting clays shoots, as well as the Still Target World Championships.
The monumental project embodying both habitat conservation and hunting preservation is being funded solely through NWTF partner contributions and direct donations. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources already has contributed $2 million to the project through Pittman-Robertson funding. Money raised by the NWTF’s grassroots members, banquet committee and chapter leaders will continue to fund Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. projects across the country.