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Jackson County lodge promoted after 25 silent years

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MIKE RUBEN / The State Journal MIKE RUBEN / The State Journal

Holt Lodge is strategically located between Charleston and Parkersburg near I-77 in Jackson County. 

Marketing of the facility has been just as serene as the peaceful surroundings alongside a historic covered bridge straddling a fishing lake.

The Cedar Lakes Conference Center facility, which features an attractive façade of stone and wood, has the necessary element of location, location, location. At $65 per night, affordability has not been an issue, either. Some argue that the lodge has been lacking the successful business ingredient of promotion, promotion, promotion. 

The lodge was built more than 25 years ago with the concept of elevating overnight lodging at the center to another level by accommodating larger groups who were not attracted to dormitory-style rooms. It was hoped that the lodge would help make the West Virginia Department of Education facility profitable.

That business forecast, however, didn't come to fruition. Under a previous verbal agreement with area hotels in Jackson County, marketing has been limited to a minimum. The "no billboard, no advertising, word-of-mouth" promotion plan was less than effective and the 48-room lodge is seldom used by travelers.

That may be changing now that ownership of Cedar Lakes is transitioning from the Department of Education to the non-profit Cedar Lakes Foundation. The maneuver has not been finalized, but steps in that direction were taken during the recent legislative session.

Foundation President Stan Hopkins agrees there's much work to be done in the coming months, but says the task is feasible.

"I think Cedar Lakes can be profitable," said Hopkins, a retired assistant state superintendent. "I think we can continue to do the (education-based) things we have done in the past, plus enhance that. 

"I think we can pull it off. I really do."

And the success of Holt Lodge is a major component.

While the facility is booked by craft, school and church groups on a regular basis, it has been overlooked by business groups, according to administrator Debbie Parsons. 

"The lodge has a lot to offer," she said of Holt, which has a large stone fireplace in the lobby. "There's a meeting room and groups like the fact that meals are available in the same location."

Holt's meeting room can accommodate as many as 60 guests. Groups of up to 400 may choose the nearby renovated Assembly Hall, which has four adjacent classrooms. Also, Lakeview Dining Hall has three rooms to handle large or small groups.

For information, see www.wvde.state.wv.us/cedarlakes or call 304-372-7860.