RALEIGH — A bill that will provide for the Lumbee Tribe to purchase the N.C. Indian Cultural Center property breezed through the state House on Monday and is now on its way to the state Senate.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Charles Graham and Ken Waddell, both Democrats whose districts touch Robeson County, takes the property away from the nonprofit North Carolina Cultural Center Inc. that for years has had difficulty coming up with the financial resources to maintain the property. House members voted to approve the bill 112-0, according to Graham, who himself is a member of the Lumbee Tribe.
The center property consists of four parcels, the largest being 387 acres and including the now closed Riverside Golf Course. According to the bill, the state will appraise that parcel and first offer it for sale to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. The tribe has 90 days to accept the offer or negotiate a price based on the appraisal.
The legislation as proposed would not allow the tribal government to subdivide the land or sell or lease its natural resources. The tribe would also have to keep the property open to the public and allow North Carolina tribes and tribal organizations to use the property at cost or free.
If the tribe declines to purchase the property, the state can dispose of the property through public sale.
According to the bill, the three other parcels — totaling 144 acres — would become part of the Lumber River State Park.
The N.C. Indian Cultural Center Inc. has leased the property for $1 a year. Since 1994, it has been working to raise money to build a recreational and cultural facility to celebrate the heritage of North Carolina’s Indian tribes.
In addition to the golf course, which was shut down after buildings on the property were found not to meet state safety standards, the property includes a lake, a swimming pool, an outdoor amphitheater and other buildings, some of which have been damaged by fire.
A state analysis in December estimated the property needs $2.1 million in repairs plus $1.1 million to enclose it to prevent theft and vandalism.
The legislature’s Program Evaluation Oversight Committee studied the property last year and recommended the sale and other provisions in the legislation. According to the committee’s report, the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs should develop another concept, rather than the current N.C. Indian Cultural Center, to promote the state’s American Indian cultures.
“I am very pleased that we are giving the tribe the opportunity to get control of the property,” Graham said. “This is a chance for the development of the center as it was originally intended. It also is an opportunity for economic development and the promotion of culture.”