Friends of the Lake 5K helps fund Lake J. grounds

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 24, 2014

Whether it's sunny, rainy or snowy, no matter the weather, Waynesville resident Ed Green has been running the trail at Lake Junaluska almost daily for the past 10 years.

As a nurse at Mission Hospital, Green understands the importance of running, and he appreciates that the lake is so close by. He also understands that without outside support, the lake may not be able to exist, which is why he is directing the Friends of the Lake 5K fundraiser this year. This event helps offset some of the costs of facility maintenance at the lake.

Though thousands take advantage of the amenities at Lake Junaluska, many may not know or even consider how much it costs to keep the grounds beautiful and who pays for it.

"The philosophy that we have of funding the maintenance of the lake is different than many governmental properties such as city parks or a county park or a state park or national park. Tax dollars are the foundation of support for those public spaces," said Jack Ewing, executive director and CEO of the lake.

But at Lake Junaluska, no county tax dollars are used for the upkeep of the grounds.

"A vast majority of the public view Lake Junaluska the same way as they do a public park without really thinking that there are no tax dollars that are used for ongoing support," Ewing said.

The cost for maintaining the lake is approaching $400,000 each year, Ewing said. More than half of that goes toward maintaining the grounds at the lake, such as the walking path, the rose walk, Asbury Trail, fountains, gazebos and all the other amenities. And about every two or three years, the assembly must spend thousands of dollars to remove built-up silt and sediment in the lake.

It's always been the lake's vision to keep it open for the public's enjoyment, and there's likely no Haywood resident that hasn't experienced the lake in some way.

While Lake Junaluska has held a 5K in years past during the Easter weekend celebration, this is the second year the Friends of the Lake is organizing a 5K as a fairly new initiative for the lake to raise money to help offset some of the costs associated with taking care of the grounds.

Those who participate as runners or walkers in the event are automatically signed up as members of the Friends of the Lake program. Last year, nearly 200 people became members of the program through the 5K event or with a gift of $25 or more. The event raised almost $9,000 to go toward the annual maintenance of the walking trail and other recreation opportunities at Lake Junaluska.

This year's race will be chip-timed by Right on Time Productions to assure accurate race timing. The course will start at the Nanci Weldon Open Air Gym and lead participants down Lakeshore Drive and Chapel Drive and turn onto the walking trail. It will then continue on the trail across the foot bridge near the swimming pool and back to Lakeshore Drive and the starting line.

The course involves short steep uphills, none of which are long or grueling, and long, gradual downhills, Green said.

Ewing said the 5K is the flattest race west of Asheville.

Awards will be handed out immediately following the race in 15 different age groups to the top three male and female winners in each age category.

The race will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 19, with a family walk following at about 8:35 a.m. and a kid's fun run at 9:30 a.m.

Pre-registration lasts until April 18 and costs $25. The run will cost $30 if participants sign up on the day-of, students ages 11 to 18 cost and groups of six or more cost $15 each. T-shirts will be given to those who pre-register for the 5K or family walk by April 4.