|By Ron Brown, The News & Advance,
Lynchburg, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Aug. 26, 2006 - The Rev. Jerry Falwell was in Florida on Wednesday to meet with a developer about building a resort on Candlers Mountain.
Falwell, Liberty University's chancellor, confirmed the meeting on Friday.
He said talks about the resort are in the very early stages.
"The developer will be coming here in mid-September to spend a day with us. He's as excited as we are," Falwell said. "He will sit down with us and our team. The purpose of the meeting is to talk about the development of a significant part of the mountain."
A series of ideas are being kicked around.
"We're looking at time shares," Falwell said. "We are looking at a huge restaurant right on top of the mountain. We want to make Lynchburg a destination point for visitors."
Falwell declined to name the developer.
"We have the prime ingredients, land and location," said Jerry Falwell Jr., LU's vice chancellor. "We are right here on a main road, next to a city and university. If that mountain ends up a first-rate development, it will do nothing but benefit Liberty University's recruitment efforts, student life and everything else. We have everything to gain from it becoming a first-class resort and recreation area."
Falwell Jr. said earlier this year that Candlers Mountain would lend itself to the development of an expanded Camp Hydaway Lake, a golf course and ski slope.
Earlier this year, LU purchased about 200 acres of land needed for the development of the mountain.
Since then, the Liberty Mountain Development Plan has been expanded to include a gravity sports park -- which would include a mountain coaster (similar to a roller coaster), a snowboarding pipe, an Alpine slide and Zip lines, a ride that uses a harnessed swing seat attached to a pulley to allow individual passengers to ride down the mountain on a cable.
The recreation area would also include a network of trails suitable for running, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Professional planners with knowledge of gravity sport parks recently came to Lynchburg from Utah to look at the property. According to Falwell Jr., they said the gravity sports park could pay for itself in three to four years.
"The type of facilities we're talking about already exist all over Europe and out West," Falwell Jr. said. "This will be the first place in the East that something like this has been done. It's got to become a draw for Lynchburg. We're giving people a reason to come to Lynchburg and stay a couple of days."
Surveyors also have been examining the property to determine the best slopes for the gravity sports park and a possible ski slope, which would use a synthetic surface called snowflex to allow skiing year round.
Originally, Falwell Jr. had considered man-made snow for the slope. The experts said Lynchburg has only 60 days of weather where man-made snow would be effective, thus making it non-cost effective.
Snowflex, invented in England, uses a padded carpet, which is slickened when water is applied.
The discussion of the resort comes at a time when a new 2.3- mile timbering road has been cut along the ridge line of the mountain from Candlers Mountain Road to near Campbell Avenue.
Liberty University owns about 4,800 acres of land, much of it on the south side of U.S. 460 straddling the Lynchburg-Campbell County line.
Falwell said the new road would serve a dual purpose.
It will allow logging trucks access to 160 acres of land for which the school has sold timber rights.
The road also will serve as a place for hiking, mountain-bike riding, horseback riding, running and other types of non-motorized activities.
"When the leaves fall, the views are going to be incredible," Falwell Jr. said.
"The public will want to come up and see the views. It will be the closest thing Lynchburg will have to the Blue Ridge Parkway."
He said the school's main objective is to provide activities that will draw students to the LU campus.
"When you have a school like Liberty, which prohibits alcohol and dancing, you better have some positive activities to keep students busy or else your rules are going to be difficult to enforce," Falwell Jr. said.
"We are trying to produce alternatives to what is called recreation at most colleges."
To that end, he said the school must be conscientious in using its land in the most effective way.
"We want to guide the development of this mountain so it is first rate and benefits the university, the church, and the community. We don't want to build a Heritage USA," Falwell Jr. said, referring to Jim Bakker's long-defunct Christian theme park in South Carolina.
"That's not what we want to do. We want to find the right resort developer to come in and let Liberty benefit from it."
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Copyright (c) 2006, The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.
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