Scenic Stonewall Resort in the heart of West Virginia is quite possibly the finest state park you’ll ever visit.
by Marla Brannan
From the first glimpse of perfectly manicured greens on the Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, a visitor to Stonewall Resort near Roanoke, West Virginia, quickly realizes that this place is unlike any state park visited before, a place that can live up to a motto like “Close to Nature. Far from Ordinary.”
Consider this: Stonewall Resort includes amenities like a 1920s-style Adirondack lodge, full service spa and salon, gourmet food, an award winning golf course, first class conference facilities and breathtaking hills-and-lake views in every direction. This might come as a surprise, little wonder since Stonewall Resort, a public/private venture located in Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park north of Charleston, is a one-of-a-kind that looks and feels far different than a conventional state park.
This unique resort is the only successful endeavor involving a public, state-owned park backed by significant private investment in the United States – and it’s conveniently located just two and a half hours from the Huntington area!
Its beginnings were inauspicious – in the mid 1980s the United States Corps of Engineers built a dam to control flooding of the West Fork River and Skin Creek near Weston, WV, thus creating 2,650 acre Stonewall Jackson Lake. The lake, West Virginia’s second largest, covers 26 miles and has 82 miles of shoreline; the surrounding land is owned by the Corps and is thus uninhabited and tranquil. As part of dam construction the Corps built the state park, which opened in 1989.
Construction began on Stonewall Resort in 2000 with $44 million from the private sector and $18.5 million from the state. The golf course opened in June 2002 and the lodge in October 2003. A new course clubhouse and a 75 foot dinner and excursion boat, which both opened to the public in July, bring that total investment to a number approaching $100 million.
According to the resort, “The mutual goal of the Corps of Engineers and the WV Department of Natural Resources was to enhance the facilities already offered at the park and to be a regionally recognized destination for leisure and group travel.” The park has more than met those goals, in fact met them well enough to garner a Four Diamond rating from AAA.
Greg Parsons, General Manager of the Resort, says it was the refreshingly helpful attitude of the staff that pushed Stonewall into the Four Diamond class.
“The reception we’ve had for our staff has been incredible,” Parsons said. “It’s because we want them to go beyond the expectations, do whatever needs to be done to make the customers happy. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And it’s not just how they treat customers, it’s how they treat each other and the community.”
To encourage this, the resort has a program called OAK, which stands for Outstanding Acts of Kindness. Way beyond typical employee of the month programs, awardees are chosen because they’ve volunteered in a special way in the local community or schools, or because management discovers they’ve helped a fellow employee in a time of need.
A two-pronged approach to marketing the resort targets both leisure and group travelers and ensures that Stonewall Resort isn’t just a destination for vacationing with family or friends. It is also a high-tech conference center. Not only does Stonewall offer an inspiring location (and plenty of windows to enjoy it even while working), it offers 22,000 square feet of dedicated conference space, including a 15,000 square foot conference center and 7,000 square foot exhibition center. The larger meeting rooms have 14 foot ceilings, built in projection systems, wider than average tables with a hard writing surface, ergonomic seating and climate control. There are also numerous smaller break-out rooms.
Other conference amenities include T1 lines throughout for high-speed internet access, high-speed networking capabilities, conference planning manager and concierge on-site to coordinate all meeting details, highly-skilled on-property audio/visual and IT staff, full banquet facilities, 24 hour meeting storage space and continuous refreshment breaks.
All in all, Stonewall Resort is an extraordinarily comfortable and cutting edge conference location.
And just as the resort shines in the “group” category, it outdoes itself for the “leisure” traveler. The lodge, with 198 guestrooms and suites, is impressive in numerous ways. The main entrance, under a large porte-cochere, leads directly into the Great Hall, a room remarkable for its warmth and size – characteristics that are often mutually exclusive. Towering ceilings, an impressive fireplace (lit in the evenings and perfect as a marriage ceremony backdrop) and comfortably grouped leather and “twig” style furniture make the lobby a perfect place to put up your feet and read a good book. Reading is, in fact, a pastime Stonewall encourages. A lending library off the Great Hall contains tomes of nearly every variety.
If you’re hungry after settling in your room, Stonewall provides a wonderful in-room menu (including fabulous chocolate-covered strawberries), as well as two excellent restaurants. T.J. Muskies Lounge has a laid-back atmosphere and is a great place to have a drink before dinner or a less formal meal. Stillwaters Restaurant continues the easy Adirondack lodge feeling but serves gourmet, seasonally fresh food either from the buffet or a la carte three meals a day. In season, restaurant guests may choose to dine lakeside on the patio. Boat docking facilities are close by.
There are plenty of activities for both adults and children to work up an appetite worthy of a meal at either resort restaurant. Stonewall has a program for kids ages 5-12 called Resort Rascals that goes way beyond simple day care.
Adults can rent a kayak, a paddleboat, a houseboat or a bike; hike a vast network of trails in the surrounding hills; fish in Stonewall Jackson Lake, nationally recognized as a premier fishing location with species like Bass, Sauger, Muskie, Crappie, Blue Gill and Catfish; swim in the indoor/outdoor pool; repose in the Jacuzzis, steam room or sauna; work out on the gym’s Cybex equipment; or spend an hour – or an entire day – at the spa.
For those who find relaxation on the links, The Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course recently received a huge honor: Mr. Palmer is putting together a book of his best designs and it will include the 17th hole at Stonewall Resort. The course is nestled among the native terrain and incorporates Stonewall Jackson Lake. Multiple tee boxes on every hole and acceptance by the Audubon Society make this both a challenging and scenic course.
For those who find relaxation in pampering the body, Mountain Laurel Spa offers manicures and pedicures, a full service salon, facials and a variety of soothing massage therapies. Indulgence packages incorporate various aspects of the spa and make great gifts.
So, the next time you’re planning a conference or just want to unwind, give Stonewall Resort a try. You’ll find it is truly “Close to Nature. Far from Ordinary.”
For more information on location, reservations or the lake marina, go to www.stonewallresort.com.
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