While the doomed Cajun Coast Visitors Center was located in Morgan City, it was not a City of Morgan City project.
“There are no city tax dollars that are in this project,” Mayor Tim Matte said this morning, clarifying public confusion about who was funding the sinking $3.4 million project.
“This project was strictly a St. Mary Parish Tourist Commission project, which we supported … It was, in effect, going to be a tourist attraction of its own,” he said. Because of the popularity of television shows like Swamp People there is an interest in such things and the building would have gotten visitors off the four-lane, “given people a flavor of the area and hopefully gotten them to stop or come back.”
Increasing tourist activity in an area generates economic activity. An increase in economic activity yields an increase in jobs. State and parish officials were investing in that idea when they invested in this building, Matte explained.
State tax dollars paid for part of the building, and at least part of the parish money was generated via a hotel/motel tax that visitors to the area pay.
It also should be noted that the project began design and planning phases eight years ago and has no connection at all with Cypress Park, which replaced the Swamp Gardens, Matte noted.
The tourist building “was never a replacement” for the Swamp Gardens, he said.
Cypress Park entered its design phase in 2010.
As for the tourist building, “we’re all sick about it. We recognize it’s a complicated legal situation. The first step is to figure out what happened … we believe if someone is at fault then they should be held accountable.”
And, at least for now, “we have to rethink how to appeal to tourists coming into Morgan City,” the mayor concluded.