“You are along the shore of the lake; it is peaceful; it is quiet. You don’t worry about the everyday things you worry about if you are on the road running,” said Green, 64, who works as a nurse at Mission Hospital.
It got Green to thinking. He runs at the lake five times a week sometimes but was free-loading in a sense. The cost of keeping up the grounds and several miles of walking paths and trails tops $250,000 a year — an expense born solely by the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center and donors.
Green approached fellow fans of the Lake Junaluska walking path with the idea of doing something to contribute, which ultimately led to the creation of the newly formed Friends of the Lake.
“On any given summer day, we estimate 1,000 people come and recreate at the lake,” said Ken Howle, director of advancement for Lake Junaluska.
Friends of the Lake has been well-received. People are eager to finally have a formal way to contribute to a place they value, Howle said.
“I think most people have said it is about time,” Howle said “It is long overdue, and they are excited to help ensure that Lake Junaluska can sustain the recreation area and remain a beautiful place to come and recreate.”
The cost of an annual membership in Friends of the Lake is just $25, but Howle expects some people will give much more.
“Long term, we want to cover the cost of maintaining the grounds and recreation opportunities through charitable donations,” Howle said.
There’s more than just the walking path to keep up. There’s the park and picnic area below the dam, the rose walk, numerous pocket gardens and manicured public spaces throughout the grounds. It takes a 10-person landscaping crew — constantly mowing, weed eating, hand-weeding, mulching and planting, not to mention maintaining the path itself.
Friends of the Lake is being officially kicked off on Saturday, March 30, with the Friends of the Lake 5K and fun run. (See the Outdoors section of the paper for details.)
Green said word will spread quickly through the running and walking community of the Friends of the Lake concept, thanks to the sense of camaraderie among runners at Lake Junaluska.
“It is a little bit of a social event,” Green said. “You just get to know people who are in that circle.”
The walking trail at Lake Junaluska is one of the most popular privately owned recreation areas in Western North Carolina.
Kathy Sheppard, of Sheppard Insurance, has already signed on as a corporate sponsor with Friends of the Lake.
“They open their doors willingly to the public to use the trail, and I think this is a way for thanking them for that,” Sheppard said. “It is an inspiring place.”