It has cost Canton half a million dollars to keep ownership of a piece of property it already owns.
Event organizers may have to go through a more thorough application process if the Canton Board of Aldermen adopts a new special events policy.
Tracy O’Neil has a lot less weight on his shoulders these days.
“We never accepted that we could lose the camp,” he said. “If we had lost the camp, we would have lost a cornerstone of the history of our community.”
Sipping a cup of coffee at Panacea Coffeehouse in Waynesville one recent morning, O’Neil relaxes into his seat, only to lean forward enthusiastically each time he speaks of the past, present and future of Camp Hope — a longtime community gathering spot for Haywood County and beyond.
A two-year court battle over the ownership of Camp Hope concluded last week when the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the property belonged to the town of Canton.
The town of Canton is not out of the woods yet in its fight to keep Camp Hope, a public recreation area in Cruso.
Canton leaders are already asking how they can do better making Camp Hope available to the public after a lawsuit threatened to seize the 100-acre forested tract and rustic camp quarters away from the town.
Canton leaders are pondering how much time and money to invest in an abandoned summer camp and mountain property left to the town under one condition — its use benefit Haywood County residents.
After it was deeded the 100-acre Camp Hope, the town leased it to a private weight-loss camp. But now, amid fall-out from a legal tug-of-war over Camp Hope, the weight-loss camp is pulling out, leaving Canton to run and manage the property on its own.
Canton may end up defending its use of the property known as Camp Hope in court this August.
John and Deborah Prelaz have filed a lawsuit against the town asking that Canton’s claim to the 38.15-acre property be deemed null and void after it allegedly violated the terms of the deed. The deed requires the town to use the land for recreational purposes that benefit mostly Haywood County residents and those in surrounding counties.