Presley plans to resurrect the mountain
As an arduous season comes to a close at Ghost Town in the Sky, owner Alaska Presley is pressing forward with the next phase of restoring the mountain amusement park.
Presley has faced a number of setbacks this season, including a delayed opening due to failed state inspections, unexpected expenses associated with constructing an emergency evacuation route under the chairlift and a gunfighter incident that left longtime employee and previous Ghost Town investor Robert Bradley injured.
The construction of the road also disturbed more land than was intended, which resulted in fines from the Haywood County Soil and Erosion Control office. Crews are now working on improving the road to prevent erosion on the steep incline.
Ghost Town planned to open on Memorial Day but didn’t actually get to open until July 4. In light of the delayed opening and extremely rainy summer, attendance was low this season.
“But I didn’t expect much for what was available (on the mountain),” Presley said.
Teresa Smith, executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, said visitors to Maggie this summer were thrilled to find the park was reopened.
“Many visitors remember coming to Ghost Town as a child and now they want to bring their children and grandchildren to the mountaintop park,” she said. “We are looking forward to the 2014 season in anticipation of continued developments at Ghost Town in the Sky.”
Guest comments on TripAdvisor showed mixed reviews of the park.
A reviewer from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, said his trip to Ghost Town was the highlight of their trip to Maggie.
“The people who work in Ghost Town are 'true blue' and you can feel the family atmosphere. There is also an amazing talent there in the piano player in the Saloon!”
“The last time I had been there was when I was 3, which was along time ago. They are working on the place so it isn’t the greatest yet but they do a good job with what they have at this time,” said a reviewer from Knoxville.
A reviewer from Lebanon, Tennessee, who has visited Maggie for many years with her children, was disappointed in the lack of kids’ rides when they visited Oct. 12. “We enjoy coming to the mountains and all the area has to offer... Maggie Valley, Cherokee, etc. I can't express how disappointed the five of us were.”
Phase 3 progress
But none of the obstacles have stopped Presley from moving forward with her long-term plans. When she bought Ghost Town in early 2012, she committed to revamping the mountain in three phases. Phase one was adding three zip lines at the bottom of the mountain and phase two was getting the Western Town back to its original glory.
The zip lines are installed and the Western Town has been restored, Presley is concentrating on phase three — Resurrection Mountain. The project is a sentimental one for Presley, who has visited Jerusalem’s Holy Land before and wanted to recreate it here at home.
The Rev. Bobby Rogers, pastor of Dellwood Baptist Church, is assisting Presley in making her vision into a reality. His seven trips to Israel will prove beneficial in making Resurrection Mountain as realistic as possible.
Resurrection Mountain will be located on the highest elevation portion of Ghost Town that was once occupied by several rides and Fort Cherokee.
Rogers and Presley walked through the neglected part of the mountain on Oct. 9 and discussed what it will look like within the next couple of years. Rogers said the existing layout of the park would work perfectly for Presley’s vision.
“The beauty of this place — it’s almost as if it’s been crafted just for this purpose,” he said.
Resurrection Mountain will walk visitors through the life of Jesus Christ from his birth to his resurrection. The experience will begin once visitors enter the main gate to find Bethlehem and a nativity scene.
Visitors will then ascend the mountain to find different parts of Jesus’ life, including Nazareth with a carpenter’s shop and Mount Precipice where Jesus was cast off.
The next section of the attraction will be Jerusalem with Solomon’s Temple on the Temple Mount. The former music hall will be converted into Solomon’s Temple. As people walk back behind the temple, they will be greeted by what Presley hopes will be the highest placed cross in the Western hemisphere.
Fort Cherokee will be transformed into Antonia Fortress, a military barracks built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem near Temple Mount. The final stage of Resurrection Mountain will be a short path to the empty tomb. Several pavilions will be built in the area to provide groups with a place to hold communions.
Similar to The Hold Land Experience in Orlando, Florida, Resurrection Mountain would have actors reenacting scenes from Jesus’ life.
Presley is excited about the possibilities Resurrection Mountain will provide for the community and visitors to the area.
“Think of the kids that could come here and it could change their lives,” she said.
Presley said the next step would be fundraising efforts to help pay for the new construction, which is estimated to cost millions.
When asked how the new attraction would fit in to the existing Western Town right next door, Presley said the hope was to offer three different attractions on the mountain so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
“The idea is to get everything laid out so when we bring in potential donors, they can understand the process,” Rogers said. “We’ll be asking individuals, churches, businesses and other large donors to take part in the building of Resurrection Mountain.”
Ghost Town is still open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends until the end of October.