Lake Logan rises to challenges and looks to the future

Lake Logan has come a long way since the Episcopal Church purchased the property in 2000.

At the time, the diocese went into huge debt to secure the retreat center and upgrade its infrastructure to accommodate more visitors – a debt that has only been repaid in the past two years. While executive director Lauri SoJourner was thrilled to be debt-free, she lamented that the opportunity had been ruined by the pandemic shutdowns.

“It was sad because we started our last big campaign to pay off the debt before COVID, and we were planning on having a big party, but we never got to,” SoJourner said.

Paying off large debts and enduring pandemics are among the many challenges the retreat center has faced since SoJourner took over in June 2017 after stepping down from a position she had held for a decade as the camp’s executive director. and Gravatt Conference Center. near Aiken, South Carolina.

SoJourner said the move from the swampy lowlands of South Carolina to the mountains of western North Carolina was a welcome relief, at least in terms of climate, although there was a bit of a downturn. adjustment for her four children regarding the lack of cell phone service at the lake.

However, she said her family has since grown to love the place they now call home.

“Being able to live in such a beautiful place outweighs any inconvenience,” she said.

The Retreat Center has three main purposes from year to year: the Retreat Center, Camp Henry and, more recently, the Outdoor School.

SoJourner said one of the challenges of camp is the public road that runs through the middle of the property.

“Security is our main concern, and we also want to keep the feel of a retreat center even though there are multiple access points and a road running through it,” she said.

Another obstacle has been the balance between public access and the preservation of the land, as well as its accommodations and amenities. SoJourner said she wants locals to feel welcome and enjoy the property, but it should be done the right way. The solution was to provide day passes and season tickets.

The obvious challenge that has plagued everyone for two years now is the pandemic. SoJourner admitted that she initially thought people who canceled reservations as the virus became more widespread in the United States were overreacting. As government shutdowns began, reality hit home.

“I had to fire all the staff,” SoJourner said. “It was the worst day of my career.”

“We were about to have a banner year…and then those few weeks were like punch after punch,” she added. “And that was before we knew what kind of government or donor support we might have, so it was devastating.”

While many summer camps closed completely, Camp Henry was still operational, albeit significantly downsized, offering smaller sessions with only a dozen campers. Moreover, everything that could be done outside was. Camp Henry has had no known spread of the virus during this time.

“It was amazing because the kids needed it and we needed it,” she said. “It was so good for the souls of the staff to have people here.”

Last year the camp was operating at 75% capacity and SoJourner hopes to have it fully operational this summer.

Just two years ago, Camp Henry went from being just a summer manager to hiring a full-time employee. This has enabled the growth of the outdoor school, which provides an alternative education for middle and high school students while adhering to curriculum standards set forth by the state. Children learn about astronomy by standing under the stars, ecology by venturing into the woods, and history from local Cherokee storytellers.

Like just about everyone else in this part of Haywood County, Lake Logan suffered damage during catastrophic flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred last August. While SoJourner said the lake didn’t suffer as much as people at the East Fork of the Pigeon River in the Cruso area, several staff suffered damage to their property, the boathouse was flooded and the wharf was washed away.

Replacing the wharf will cost more than initially thought.

“At first I thought, oh, maybe it’ll be $25,000, but it’s $64,000,” SoJourner said. “We raised all but $18,000 of that.”

The dock will be delivered in about a week, which means there is a lack of time to raise the rest of this money.

SoJourner said that in the future, she hopes to continue to focus even more on raising awareness and developing a welcoming environment for all people of all faiths. This includes building more facilities for accommodation and catering, and possibly even a visitor center just off the main road.