$23M Cacapon Park project called key to boost Panhandle's economy

January 03, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — County governments in all three Eastern Panhandle counties are lending support to a $23 million expansion and renovation project at Cacapon State Park in Morgan County.

The project is needed to protect and boost the region’s economy, Morgan County Commissioner Stacy Dugan said.

The 6,000-acre park 10 miles south of Berkeley Springs was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It opened in 1937 with one camp. The 48-room lodge, restaurant and conference center was built in 1956. The park also boasts of an 18-hole, par 72, Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course.

Proposed is a 67,000 square-foot, 79-room addition to the lodge. Included will be new indoor and outdoor pools, spa, fitness center, dining rooms, meeting and private board rooms, bar and lounge on the first floor. The two upper floors will be taken up with residential rooms.

Upgrades and renovations also are needed on the park’s infrastructure and roads. Nearly $1 million of the total cost will be dedicated to upgrades to the golf course.

The state has spent $1 million on design costs, Dugan said. She successfully shepherded the requests for support through the Berkeley County Council and Jefferson County Commission.

“With the closing of Coolfont Resort (in Morgan County) and the conference and dining facilities at the Woods Resort (in Berkeley County), there is no longer any golf resort-based meeting space in the Panhandle,” Dugan told the Jefferson County Commission recently.

“Cacapon needs to be upgraded. We need more rooms to accommodate the conference center and other facilities,” she said. “Otherwise, that business will go elsewhere.”

Tom Ambrose, park superintendent, said the lodge’s main conference room has a capacity of 250, the same as the full-service main restaurant.

Woven through the camp’s 6,115 acres are 31 year-round cabins, a rustic 12-room inn, 27 miles of hiking trails, six-acre swimming and boating lake, picnic areas and a riding stable.

Ambrose said, on average, 250,000 visitors come to the park every year. “There’s a two-year wait for cabins during the peak season from May to October, and the lodge is always booked on those weekends,” he said.

Boosting and benefiting the park since 1989 is the volunteer community support group, Cacapon Resort Park Foundation.

Among improvements the foundation has financed and completed are new playground equipment, the CCC Memorial Pavilion, a nature center, basketball courts, a combined entertainment center and picnic pavilion, and yearly trail clearing, said James Michael, foundation board member.

Dugan said then-Gov. Joe Manchin planned to find the money for the addition, but those plans disappeared when Manchin was appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Now Manchin’s replacement, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, wants to complete the project, but in phases beginning with the infrastructure improvements, Dugan said.

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