POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — An outdoor resort combining one of the largest water parks east of the Mississippi with what would be the largest RV-friendly campground in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia is being planned for a tract of forest and farmland a few miles south of Point Pleasant.
The $10 million development would be operated as part of Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp Resorts, an 84-unit chain with a presence throughout the Midwest.
On Monday, Mason County officials and a group of area bankers toured the site with developer Lance Thornton of Point Pleasant, chairman of Erie Automotive Aftermarket Holdings, and Jim Westover, product development and sales chief for Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp Resorts.
The site includes the 11,000-square-foot replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon mansion, initially built by retired businessman H.E. Shadle in 1928, on land once deeded to the first president. Many decades later, the mansion was bought and restored by Dr. Breton Morgan. A sale of the property to Thornton by Morgan is now under contract.
While the mansion and its surrounding land's connection to Washington will be an attraction, it won't be a major part of the planned resort's public activities, said Thornton, who plans to live in the building.
The first phase of planned development involves about 445 acres, including property on both sides of four-lane U.S. 35 and its intersection with Lodge Road. A large water park would take shape across U.S. 35 from the mansion, along with a 500-unit campground featuring mainly RV and camp trailer sites, to be situated in a densely wooded area. Trails for hikers, bikers and side-by-side ATV riders would lead from the campground to points of interest and activity across the property.
A much smaller number of cabins would also be available for rent.
Westover said camp resorts in the Jellystone Park system are destination stops and accommodate relatively few just-passing-through campers.
"This will be the first Jellystone Park camp resort in West Virginia," he said. "I think it will be a huge destination for us."
Westover predicted that an average of 2,000 people would be at the resort each day, with each camper spending an average of 2.5 days on site and spending and average of $63 daily in the local economy.
The water park-camping resort would employ about 400 people, with the lowest-paid workers getting $10 per hour, according to Westover and Thornton.
After the water park and campground get up and running, an outlet mall, an indoor water park and affiliated hotel, a restaurant and off-exit service station or truck stop and an amphitheater for outdoor concerts are being eyed for future development, which could bring the resort's total acreage up to 900.
Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley said he and other commissioners have met with Thornton and Westover twice previously to discuss the development, and have consulted with their regional planning council to see if funding might be available to bring a sewer system to the site, which is already connected to a public water system.
"I just hope it all comes to fruition," said Handley, who took part in Monday's tour. "It would be a great shot in the arm for us here in Mason County."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.