published Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Rarity Club’s finances hurting camp

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Mickey Rose, the campground manager at Shellmound Campground in Jasper, Tenn., talks about the impact of the Rarity Club development's stall on the campground because of construction materials being stored on the campground.

JASPER, Tenn. — Shellmound Campground manager Mickey Rose has waited since October 2007 for the five-month project to move her operation to a new site.

She’s still waiting.

The former TVA campground was purchased in 2004 as part of Rarity Communities’ Nickajack Lake development known as Rarity Club.

Now the development’s owners face lawsuits, foreclosure and an uncertain future as the multimillion-dollar subdivision and golf course lies idle. Unsold lots are set for auction Aug. 19 in a foreclosure sale, records show.

“I understand that business is business,” Mrs. Rose said last week as she negotiated her golf cart through stacks of Rarity construction materials placed around the campground. “I just want their junk out of my way.”

Rarity officials last week did not return numerous calls and e-mails requesting comment.

Mrs. Rose leases the campground from TVA, but it’s owned by Rarity. The developer was supposed to move the campground to adjacent property so developers could build the marina and the rest of the development’s golf course, Mrs. Rose said. The new site was to include volleyball and basketball courts, courtesy piers, an amphitheater and gazebo, all paid for by Rarity.

These days, floating dock sections are piled three high along the sides of the boat ramp and parking lot. Pebblestone pavers and metal support structures crowd the volleyball court and tent campsites, and few campers have an unobstructed view of Nickajack Lake.

Mrs. Rose isn’t sure what the future holds, but she said she’s not going to sink money into improvements when the future is uncertain.

TVA spokesman Jim Allen said in an e-mail that because of Rarity’s financial woes, “relocation on and construction of the new Shellmound Campground has been placed on hold until further notice.”

Mr. Allen said a 2006 deed gives the developers five years to invest $4 million in “commercial recreation amenities” on the property.

“To date, no monies have been applied toward the $4 million recreation investment,” Mr. Allen said.

Mrs. Rose said she’s worried about her campers’ safety and convenience. Even though she was told not to move some of the sharp, steel pieces stacked near the volleyball court, Mrs. Rose did so anyway. She figures its in everyone’s interest to keep campers from getting hurt.

Cramping campers’ style

Itamar Rosenfeld, his wife and four children stopped at the campground for two days last week on vacation from Chicago.

“I was just telling my wife that it’s weird to see all those things piled up like that. We were wondering why all this was here,” Mr. Rosenfeld said as his children — ages 18 months, 6, 8 and 10 — played on the sandy volleyball court and playground.

“Instead of letting them play, we have to watch them with seven eyes.”

Chickamauga, Ga., resident Jeff Baker and his family love Shellmound and are spending their sixth summer on Nickajack Lake. But the stuff piled on the boat ramp for a second year is a real problem, Mr. Baker said.

“Other than it being a hazard on the boat ramp, it’s really in the way,” he said. “It’s hard for people to park when they bring their boats in here for the weekend fishing tournaments.”

Fishing boats get on the water early and “recreational boaters have a lot of trouble finding a place to park,” he said.

About 15 available parking spaces are occupied by floating dock sections, he said.

Mr. Allen said the federal agency’s attorneys have been told about problems with the equipment and will discuss options with Rarity and Mrs. Rose.

The campground manager said she’s getting tired of waiting.

“It’s been four years and my understanding is, if they don’t have the campground built by June, 2011, then TVA will take the property back,” she said.

If that happens, “we get to stay where we’re at,” she said. “Meanwhile, all this stuff is in the way.”

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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