Sweet Springs Resort Park’s revitalization efforts at risk due to leasing problems

GAP MILLS, WV (WOAY) – The Sweet Springs Resort Park is one of the most historic places in the entire state. It was built in 1833 and designed by Thomas Jefferson, and eight different presidents have stayed there.

But over the past 100 years, the park has greatly deteriorated. And locals have taken over the area and have begun a revitalization campaign. 

The park is roughly 30 acres in size, but has a lease with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture for an extra 600 acres. They use that area as part of the park’s revitalization, using it for large gatherings like weddings, concerts, or any other type of recreation. 

However, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture now wants to terminate the lease and take the land back over.

“That’s the area we need for recreation,” said Project Manager Ashby Berkley. There’s only about 30 acres on this park land, and that’s not big enough for recreation facilities. And now the state wants to cancel our lease, and they won’t tell us why. They just say they have other intentions for it.”

The revitalization is not just a pipe dream. Earlier this month the park hosted more than 1,300 people for an event. And they have plans to greatly use the extra 600 acres in the near future. 

But if the Department of Agriculture takes the land back, then they won’t know if their efforts can continue.

They’ll still have the main buildings and can continue their restoration efforts, but they’ll have to cancel everything else they have in store, which they say could greatly hurt tourism efforts.

“We just think it’s unfair. We think this is a [chance for] major tourism and economic development in southern West Virginia. And people in this area are furious.”

The 600 acres leased through the Department of Agriculture goes around the back of the property, all the way up to Peter’s Mountain.

Sweet Springs has been on the lease for about four years, and they have more than 20 left to go on the agreement. But the Department of Agriculture wants them gone by September 6 of this year. 

Volunteers with the park have even started a petition to help them keep the lease. That petition garnered more than 1300 signatures in less than a week.

The park is in contact with the Department of Agriculture to hopefully find an agreement. 

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture told WOAY they wanted to exercise their right to cancel the lease and explore other options. They want to make sure the adjacent farm is used for agricultural purposes for the benefit of West Virginia taxpayers.

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