#8 Lake Junaluska turns 100

By Vicki Hyatt | Dec 27, 2013
Hundreds of Lake Junaluska residents showed up for the re-enactment of the historic photo taken on the first gathering at Stuart Auditorium 100 years ago.

As the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center marked its 100th anniversary in 2013, it was not just a time for looking back. The community set the course for its future, as well.

The rich history of the southeast retreat haven for the Methodist Church was celebrated in many ways — from various concerts, spiritual enrichment gatherings, historical re-enactments to a centennial homecoming celebration over the July 4 holiday.

Those in the community who may have only thought of Lake Junaluska as a great place to enjoy July 4 fireworks, walk around a scenic lake or take their children to the best-organized Easter Saturday activities around learned this year it was much more.

There were ample opportunities to experience or read about the early dreams of a summer retreat where Methodist church members and clergy could find rest, recreation and inspiration. The centennial year offered a chance for old-timers and newcomers in Haywood County, alike, to learn about the early hopes and dreams that grew into Lake Junaluska as it exists today.

The vision survived the hard financial times, including devastating fires that destroyed majestic buildings and bankruptcy during the Great Depression.

Then the dreams grew larger as recreational facilities were added, new ministries were started, and even larger groups were treated to the Southern hospitality offered at the assembly.

It wasn’t just the conference facilities and programs that expanded. A growing number of visitors who experienced idyllic summers at Lake Junaluska wanted to make it a year-around home, so the residential community expanded, as well.

Many of the very early homes were built in tandem with the early conference buildings, and the infrastructure serving the community was installed at that time, too.

 

A need to update

The aging water and sewer lines are badly in need of repair. A study showed that between 35 and 60 percent of the water purchased from Waynesville is lost in the leaky system of underground pipes and the sewer lines, especially in the older areas of the assembly are in equally bad shape.

After a year-long study, the Lake Junaluska residents overwhelmingly indicated the best path forward to address the needs was merging with Waynesville. That can happen in two ways — the town of Waynesville can annex the property or the N.C. General Assembly can pass a local bill.

Waynesville officials, who were part of the exhaustive study on the issue, said they would welcome Lake Junalsuka as part of their town, but declined to initiate a forcible annexation.

At the legislature, state Sen. Jim Davis agreed to sponsor annexation legislation, but the measure met resistance from a portion of the Lake Junaluska residents, who lobbied aggressively against the bill. They found support for their position in the house with Rep. Michele Presnell, who is politically opposed to annexation in general. The measure was stalled in committee, but can be brought up again at the short legislative session that starts in May.

Meanwhile, the Lake Junaluska Homeowners Association canvassed every resident to gather ammunition for the political battle that is sure to surface when the measure arises again in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, when it became clear the capital improvement plan mapped out in the Waynesville annexation plan couldn’t be implemented, Lake Junaluska leaders doubled the water/sewer rates, raised garbage fees by $3 a month and increased the assessment that’s akin to a property tax by 2.25 cents per $100 of value.

The extra funds would be applied to addressing the most immediate capital improvements issues. If the merger doesn’t happen, the rates would need to almost double again to cover the laundry list of infrastructure needs within the conference center and residential properties.

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