A path forward has been established with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture as the owners of Cedar Lakes.

A path forward has been established with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture as the owners of Cedar Lakes. 

 

"The Department of Agriculture want us,” said Cedar Lakes Executive Director Karen Facemyer.  Commissioner (Kent) Leonhardt has plans for this facility." 

 

"Cedar Lakes is a crown within the state of West Virginia and especially Jackson County,” she added. “As with most jewels, when left alone for a while it was tarnished and desired some much-needed polishing and TLC.

 

"We are finally in a secure setting under the Department of Agriculture who wants to make sure that this crown is polished and receives the necessary attention it deserves for everyone who uses it.  The attention, not unlike in the past, will feature agriculture and folk art," she stated.

 

Following an audit in 2013, the state Department of Education began planning to drastically reduce operations at Cedar Lakes.  The proposed cutbacks alarmed several residents and public officials in the area.  What followed were years of funding cuts, staff reductions, and some creative restructuringto keep the doors open and for the level of service to continue.

 

In 2015 legislation was passed that would have transferred control of Cedar Lakes from the West Virginia Board of Education to the private Cedar Lakes Foundation.  Then Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, vetoed the bill.   

 

Different legislation a year later would be successful.  House Bill 4351 sponsored by Del. Steve Westfall was overwhelmingly approved by both the House and Senate and became law.  That bill called for control of the Cedar Lakes Conference Center to be transferred from the state Board of Education to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture effective July 1, 2016.  

 

Former Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick made public his vision of utilizing Cedar Lakes for agricultural and demonstration programs to train veterans and others in farming.  Current Commissioner Leonhardt supports those concepts and has plans to implement such programs.

 

Leonhardt selected Facemyer, a former state senator, as the director of Cedar Lakes in May of 2017.

 

Cedar Lakes has been a conference center for the Future Farmers and Future Homemakers of America and many vocational clubs and since the 1950s has served as the home of the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair since 1963.  

 

The path forward includes building on those themes with the high tunnel that was started last year to grow fresh vegetables to be used in Lakeview Dining Hall and craft classes taught by professionals for students of traditional arts.   The Road Scholar program is part of a international organization that offers many craft workshops.  It attracts people from all over the United States and foreign countries.  The Road Scholar and Cedar Lakes Craft programs had a combined total of 2,000 students in 2017.   Last year, more than 1,600 students from across West Virginia received training in wastewater and water treatment at the Environmental Training Center. In excess of 30,000 visitors attended conferences, meetings, banquets, and classes at Cedar Lakes in 2017.  Those individuals represented 41 states as well as Canada, Great Britain, and Israel.

 

"Since May, the staff has done yeoman's work," Facemyer said.  "All the employees have so many great ideas and they really are the heart of this facility.”

 

Cedar Lakes currently has an annual operating budget of $2.1 million.  Appropriations from state government total $586,000 with the remaining $1.6 million coming from revenues generated at the facility.  There are now 18 full-time and 31 part-time employees.  The facility once had 50 full-time employees.

 

The Cedar Lakes website is being redesigned and a launch is expected soon.

 

The Cedar Lakes Foundation, under the direction of Stan Cavendish, is planning fundraising efforts to support current programs and assist with remodeling plans for many of the 50-year-old buildings.

 

"Going forward, we are working with the Cedar Lakes Foundation to raise much needed funds to improve our buildings and grounds,” said Facemyer.  “We have lost many of our large groups in the past because we didn’t have meeting rooms large enough to hold them." 

 

"One of our first projects with the Foundation's help is trying to obtain money through donations or corporate sponsors to enlarge the Assembly Hall.  Also, a roof is much need on the Craft House.  Our hope is that we would be able to add on to it one day to have specific rooms for pottery, weaving, and spinning."

 

Other changes include replacement of the out-dated tennis courts with a large pole building that could accommodate weddings and other purposes. 

 

"Cedar Lakes has been a home to many in their youth and adults," Facemyer said. "It holds a special place in the hearts of those who have been here in the past with hopes that it will continue to be here for their children and grandchildren.  We all might need to dig deep in our own pockets if we want to see the upgrades and to continue to grow. Under the Department of Agriculture we have the opportunity to do just that.”