Ghost Town plans winter parkAlaska Presley asks town for help
Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley has proposed adding a winter wonderland park at the bottom of the mountain to attract more visitors in the winter months.
In a proposal sent to the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen, Ghost Town spokesperson Larry Elliott, said owner Alaska Presley had begun construction on a $750,000 Winter Fun Park at the base of Buck Mountain. The first phase will consist of snow tubing, a light and laser show, a ice skating rink and a train ride through Santa’s workshop.
According to the proposal, the existing Ghost Town A Frame would be converted to winter apparel and gifts and the chairlift will be used to transport guests to the tube ride.
“The Winter Wonder Land will employee 23 people at $8 per hour. All employees will be local residents,” Elliott wrote in the proposal. “With Bryson City's Polar Express and Cherokee's Santa's Land, Winter Wonder Land will be a great added attraction for people traveling to the mountains for winter adventure.”
Elliot then listed the needed equipment for the project, which included six snow makers and blowers for $4,000 each, 200 tubes for $50 each, snow level machine for $100,000, tube stops for $4,000 and Christmas lights and laser for $80,000. Construction and development is estimated to cost $65,000.
Presley came to a board of aldermen work session on Feb. 5 to tell the board and Mayor Ron DeSimone about her progress at Ghost Town and to see if the town could assist her with any of the work.
She told the board she was in the process of trying to get financing for an enclosed gondola as an alternative to move people up the mountain. The $4 million investment would run along tracks adjacent to the chairlift. Even though she had buses to take people up Rich Cove Road to Ghost Town last year, “not that many people want to go up the road and they’re afraid of the lift,” Presley said.
She added that she had worked hard to get Ghost Town in good shape and opened the park for the last two years to attract more tourists to the valley. But unexpected expenses have hindered her progress.
“I’m out so much money… and I’ve gotten in so much trouble with the (state) Labor Department, and I’ve got a quarter million in that road,” she said. “It’s been a real challenge, but I can work it out, I think.”
To pass an opening inspection, Ghost Town had to unexpectedly construct an evacuation road underneath the chairlift last summer. The road construction disturbed more land than expected and the Haywood County Soil and Erosion Control Department fined Presley.
The N.C. Department of Labor conducted an investigation on the park’s safety protocols after a complaint was filed regarding an injury to a gunfighter. The department issued Ghost Town a $2,000 fine for using real guns during the gunfights. Ghost Town requested and informal conference to present its case, which hasn't been held yet. After the meeting, the department can then either stand by its citation or amend it.
Presley also told the board she was close to completing the infrastructure needed to get Maggie Valley municipal water up to Ghost Town instead of having to haul water up Rich Cove Road to fill the tanks. While she didn’t directly ask the board to assist her with that cost, Presley hinted that she would like the town to help her in any way it could.
Town Manager Nathan Clark said the board did discuss the winter wonderland proposal in closed session and decided the town wouldn’t be able to financially support the project in any way.
“The board didn’t feel the town was in a good position to help you on those things,” Clark said.
Presley said she was currently cash poor and her real estate isn’t selling in this market.
“I haven’t asked you for anything. I don’t expect to get my money back, but I hoped I could get some help and cooperation,” she said. “If the city wants to help Maggie Valley, they will help me out.”
DeSimone said he wasn’t sure what Presley was asking for from the town.
She said it wouldn’t cost much more to get the water hooked up.
Alderman Saralyn Price told Presley that everyone wanted to see her succeed, but she was just unsure how the town could assist her.
“With all the taxes I’m paying, I thought you might want to help me,” Presley said.
Clark said he was directed by the board to look for grants that might assist Presley with Ghost Town improvements. He said he had some leads on environmental quality improvement grants that might help update the parking lot as it ties into Jonathan Creek water quality.
Presley said the parking lot was in fairly good condition and that’s not where she needed help.
“Financially, we can’t just write a check,” said Alderman Mike Eveland. “It’s a private enterprise.”
Presley said she needed to know quickly so she can plan her next season at Ghost Town.