The money is needed to build two bathhouses, prepare the campsites and build road access through the campground, according to Cheryl Taylor, chairman of Mountain Neighbors for Needmore Preservation. The group hopes to get a significant portion from grants, but will undoubtedly have to raise a good bit from the community since most grants require a local match, Taylor said.
In addition to money, building the campground will take lots of volunteers, from clearing brush for the campsites to shingling the bathhouses.
“If people will make a contribution of their money or their time, then it’s yours for sure,” said Cathy Hildrith of Macon County, a member of the Mountain Neighbors board. “When people have made an investment in a project, it is more their own.”
What the plans call for
The final plan has 24 campsites. Each will have a fire ring and grill, a tent pad and a picnic table. The campground will be limited to tents.
The campsites will be laid out in a single row against the wood line of a field, with the field separating the campsites from the river. Trails will lead down to the river for floating, swimming and fishing.
“It will be a little oasis of paradise right down there on the Needmore tract,” said Hildrith. “It just fits in so perfectly.”
The field was leased for years by a farmer named RC Taylor for grazing cattle and is still used for hay.
There will be two bathhouses. They will have running water for sinks, showers, a dishwashing station and toilets, plus electricity. The bathhouses will be the most costly endeavor, Taylor said.
The camping fee will mirror the going rate of National Forest Service campgrounds, which range between $15 and $18 a night. Money that comes in will go toward maintenance and upkeep of the campground, like keeping the field mowed and pumping the septic systems when needed. Any extra will be used for other projects on the Needmore tract that advance public use of the property.
The campground will be run by Mountain Neighbors for Needmore Preservation, which will lease the site from the Wildlife Commission. A campground host will over-see the campground, from collecting fees to enforcing quiet hours. The site for the campground host will have hook-ups for a RV.
The 20-acre site for the campground is located on the Swain County side of the Needmore tract, off Needmore Road near a swinging bridge across the Little Tennessee River, an area known to locals as Lon DeHart Bottoms. (It’s about four miles down Needmore Road from U.S. 74.)
— By Becky Johnson