N.C. Board Weighs Lottery to End Wait List
The Clay County Board of Commissioners, faced with a waiting list the county manager says is 50 names long and complaints from people wanting a camping spot on Lake Chatuge that straddles Georgia and the western tip of North Carolina, are set to establish a lottery system for sites next year, according to the Ashville (N.C.) Citizen-Times.
All campers would have to leave by the end of the month. They would normally be allowed to keep their spots for next year and leave their campers for the winter.
“We are trying to do something that would be fair to everyone involved,” said Paul Leek, the county manager. “If you want to camp, then you put your name in the lottery system, and hopefully you’ll get drawn.”
The county board will meet Thursday (Oct. 4) to decide the matter.
The debate over what to do at the recreation park and Gibson Cove campground, where the county owns about 100 spaces, has been brewing all summer.
Lake Chatuge is between Hiwassee, Ga., and Hayesville, N.C. It is popular for boating and fishing as well as hiking, swimming and camping. The Appalachian Trail’s southernmost point is a few miles away. The area attracts visitors from Atlanta to the south and from Asheville to the east. The county leases the land from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Most of the county’s spaces are seasonal. Nineteen are rented on a 14-day limit. The fee is $14 a night for short term and $200 a month for the seasonal sites.
Campers said they paid a small fee to store their recreational vehicles over the winter – an agreement they said once had the county’s blessing.
Leek said the commissioners started looking into the rules this year after complaints to his office from people who wanted a space but did not want to spend a decade on a waiting list.
“It was almost becoming permanent spots,” Leek said.
He said sickness, death and financial problem were the only things that could dislodge many of the seasonal campers.
The three-member board last month indicated it would go for the lottery plan and that all the campers would have to be out at the end of October.
“Basically, what the commissioners are saying is we need to come up with a way that would be fair to everyone to have an opportunity to have a camping spot for a season,” Leek said.
He said the county got the lottery idea from the TVA.
But longtime RV campers said they won’t be coming back if the plan is approved.
Some groups are looking for a campground where they can all spend the summer together – just as they were used to doing at Chatuge. They also want a place where they can leave their RVs for the winter.