RIPLEY, W.Va. – Cedar Lakes Conference Center, in Jackson County is looking at an uncertain financial future.
The West Virginia Department of Education owns the facility and with government agencies facing more budget cuts, the department is considering cutting back its Cedar Lakes budget to “maintenance only.” That would mean 35 jobs would be eliminated.
Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader called that unacceptable.
“Somewhere, someone has not thought this through,” stressed Rader.
That’s why Thursday evening the community is coming together to hold a rally at the conference center to convince the powers that be that shutting down Cedar Lakes is not only a bad idea but one they won’t stand for.
In fact, Rader spent Thursday morning standing on the street outside city hall holding a sign advertising the rally.
“I’ll stand on the corner,” said Rader. “It doesn’t bother me to do whatever it takes to get people to realize what Cedar Lakes has to offer.”
The conference center sits on 228-acres of land four miles outside the city limits. There’s a 48-room lodge and cottages that serve as dormitories for larger groups. Rader says it’s a great place to exercise for free. There’s walking, biking, swimming and hiking.
Hundreds of activities take place at Cedar Lakes every year. There’s the Mountain State Art and Crafts Festival, which just celebrated it’s 50th year. It plays host to nearly two dozen high schools for band camp each summer. The Jackson County Theatre Company uses Cedar Lakes as its home base. The conference center is also filled with lights in December for the annual Winterfest.
The rally is expected to draw hundreds of people, possibly a couple thousands from more than just Jackson County.
“I think we’re going to see support from all over the state of West Virginia and in Ohio and other places that utilize Cedar Lakes,” stressed Rader.
The governor’s office has requested every department within the state come up with two budgets for the next fiscal year. One budget will have the current funding level, the other with 7.5 percent in cuts. A spokesperson for the Department of Education stresses it’s still very early in the budget process and they’re looking at a lot of different ways to save money without impacting classrooms.
Rader said, if the Department of Education can’t afford to run and staff Cedar Lakes, then maybe they need to consider selling.
“I even went so far as to say that to keep from a chain going across those gates and locking it up, the city of Ripley could annex it,” said Rader.
State Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares will be on hand for the rally.