Camp Hope moves forward

By DeeAnna Haney | Jul 14, 2014

More than a year has passed since the town of Canton won a court battle to keep Camp Hope, a historic property located on the East fork of the Pigeon River.

The legal struggles aren't exactly over for the town, however. The town continues to shell out money to cover more legal expenses after the couple who attempted to gain ownership to the camp filed another lawsuit after losing the first.

The couple also filed an appeal, which was argued in the NC Court of Appeals in Raleigh June 3. So far, the town has not heard the opinion from the appeals court on the matter.

Despite the ongoing legal issues, those who care about the future of the camp continue to invest time and money in making it a more enjoyable destination for locals and tourists.

Members of the Friends of Camp Hope, which came together after the town won the lawsuit, have completed hundreds of hours of service work to spruce the camp up and invested their own money in several projects.

Benches and picnic tables have been remodeled, roofs have been re-shingled, there are new coats of paint on all the buildings and plenty of landscaping.

The improvements have caught the eye of about 10 groups who have rented out the camp so far this year, with about a dozen more picnics, weddings, reunions and other gatherings scheduled before October.

A mission group from Christ Covenant Church in Tennessee paid rent to stay at Camp Hope the week of June 8 during which time about 100 youth and church leaders spent time on mission projects across Haywood County. The youth worked on service projects with the Open Door, Broyhill Children's Home Rose of Sharon, the Pigeon Multicultural Community Development Center and many residential homes.

While most of the youth were out and about doing projects across the county, several others stayed at Camp Hope doing work on the grounds such as rebuilding picnic tables, painting and roofing the picnic shed.

On the Map

Camp Hope may soon appear on the county quilt trail map after being approved for a $750 grant from the Tourism Development Authority 1 percent subcommittee.

During the board meeting July 10, the aldermen voted in favor of providing $592 from the town's community promotions fund.

Tracy O'Neil, who lives near the property and was one of the members of the Friends of Camp Hope, said he and Pam Kearse got the idea for the quilt block when the town began installing its quilt squares earlier this year.

"By getting on the map, just by default folks will come out and get interested in the camp and maybe rent it for a week or a night," O'Neil said.

Artist Tyler Watras, of Signs and Designs, presented a preliminary design of the colorful block, which features a combination of several quilt patterns that are reminiscent of the history of the camp and the geographic area.

"Basically, what we wanted to see at the camp was something organic that had meaning for the history of the camp and the community members that have memories there," O'Neil said.

The proposed design shows the four seasons in a mountain pattern with a center county fair pattern in red and pink. The background is a robin egg blue representing the nearby river and a pink heart in the middle shows that Camp Hope is the heart of the community.

O'Neil said he hopes the quilt square can be created and installed on the picnic shed before the Shining Rock Riverfest on Sept. 13.

Creating a commission

The town is also taking steps to make a more official Camp Hope organization. The Canton Board of Aldermen adopted a Camp Hope Commission charter during its July 3 board meeting. In that charter, the board recognizes Camp Hope as one of the town's greatest assets that they want to ensure remains a public resource.

The decision to create the commission came after the Friends of Camp Hope, a group of people dedicated to taking care of the property, made the request to the board in April.

Among the most active members of the Friends of Camp Hope were O'neil and Pam Kearse, both of whom live near the property.

After forming last year, the organization began a partnership with the town, regularly bringing updates to the mayor and aldermen at town board meetings about progress at the camp and working with the town to make sure the elements of the original deed are met.

However, after seeking advice from a town attorney, the group felt it would be best to operate under the town umbrella so the organization could have a legal structure when it comes to insurance, liability and fundraising.

Now that a commission is being formed, any monies donated to Camp Hope will go into a fund handled by the town and will be tax deductible. Any potential accident that might occur at the property would also fall under the town's insurance policy.

O'neil and Kearse also felt that becoming a commission would streamline communication between the group and the town.

The nine-person commission, which will be appointed by the board, will be under the jurisdiction of the town and will regularly advise the board on the maintenance, management and long term planning needs at the property.

Four of the members are required to live inside Canton city limits and up to three members may reside outside town limits. In addition, two board members will serve as non-voting ex-officio members of the commission.

Members will serve a two-year term and will do the work without pay, but can be reimbursed for expenses at the camp as approved by the board.

Anyone interested in being a part of the Camp Hope Commission are encouraged to fill out an application, which can be found online at or at the town hall.

Those who wish to gain a little more insight into what the commission will be doing may attend an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 21 in the Canton board room at the town hall.

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