Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:22PM - 403 Views

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Chad Abshire

Staff Writer

WILLIAMSON — Mayor Darrin McCormick formally announced the Sycamore Trail Project last week, bringing six years of work to fruition.

McCormick unveiled the designs for the campground project during a walking tour as part of the recent Sustainable Williamson Workshop and Open House event.

The mayor said that the Williamson Board of Parks and Recreation had secured a lease for the project. He also said that he was pleased with the conditions, although shared no details of them.

McCormick told the Daily News that the project was now “one step closer to being real.”

Starting from the site’s entry at Route 52 and progressing farther into the area, the campground will be developed in successive phases, each with the idea of the previous phase helping fund the next one. Work on phase one is set to begin this winter.

According to early design plans, phase one will feature entry signage, a sculpture of reclaimed materials, 24 RV camping sites, a dump station, restrooms, recycling collection and site composting.

McCormick said that, with help from Concord University students, a businesses plan was formulated to see if the campground would be a profitable venture. Giving what he called a conservative estimate, McCormick said that the site would generate approximately $50,000 above expenses operating at 50 percent occupancy.

That revenue would be used by the park board to develop phases two, three, four and five, as well as improve other recreational facilities within the town, such as the Williamson Field House and municipal swimming pool.

“The money goes back into the community to improve residents’ quality of life,” McCormick said.

Each phase either expands on the previous phase’s idea or introduces a new concept altogether, according to the plans:

• Phase Two: 33 RV spaces, parking, green space and overlook;

• Phase Three: 14 two-story cabins;

• Phase Four: 9 one-story cabins, basketball court, playground, recycling collection, site composting and restrooms;

• Phase Five: wash station, parking, recycling collection, site composting and an amphitheater.

Given that these phases are merely plans, these features are tentative.

The site will be designed as part of the ongoing Sustainable Williamson project, with the campground itself located on 20 acres of reclaimed mining land. McCormick said that some of the cabins on the campground that face southwest would also take advantage of solar panels “to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impact.”

Also included in a sustainable design for the one-story cabins are passive solar and shading features, as well as water collection. Other passive design principals, such as a two-foot roof overhangs to allow for solar heat gain in the winter and shading from the sun in summer, will also be utilized. The two-story cabins will follow loft designs which incorporate additional space to provide opportunities for passive ventilation, allowing cooler air to enter the building on the windward side and pushing warmer air out the leeward side.

According to the plans, sketches of the cabins show an ability to utilize these designs and sustainable systems with architecture that has a true wood aesthetic, allowing the buildings to look as if they belong in the area instead of appearing out-of-place.

McCormick said that, as far as work goes, roads had already been constructed on the site due to it once being a reclamation area and that Veolia Water had donated work to install the infrastructure at the campground at no cost. He said that he had already purchased 3,000 feet of pipe with leftover money from the Fairview Sewer Project which had been OK’d. McCormick also said that he’d like to have electricity at the site ran underground once it reached the campground.

Potential tenants could be a mixture of all types of people, including both locals and out-of-towners, such as trail riders and tourists. McCormick said that students from Concord had conducted a poll at last year’s TrailFest in Gilbert which showed that 69 percent of trail riders preferred RV and campground lodging to that of a hotel.

McCormick also thanked the two major stakeholders in the lease, David L. Francis Trust and J.W. Kinzer Drilling, saying that cooperation was crucial for the campground’s success.

And while he could not give a time-frame for the entire project to be finished, since each phase is planned to help fund the next one, McCormick did say he was excited the project was now a reality.

“It gives us an opportunity to capitalize on the shortage of temporary housing, Hatfield-McCoy Trail riders and visitors. It’s a place for them to stay. I think it will be very successful.”

McCormick called the campground project a “public win-win.”

Phase one of the project is set to be available for public use as early as spring 2013.

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