Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, a summer camp and conference center located in rural Cherokee County, is working on an expansion thanks to moving from septic to the Town of Andrews’ sewer system.
In February 2018, the Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $200,000 to the Town of Andrews to extend the Town’s sewer collection system to serve Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, a nearby manufacturing facility, and residential customers. The North Carolina Department of Commerce provided $200,000 in funding, and Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters provided $439,000 toward the connection to this public infrastructure.
According to Matt Jones, Executive Director of Operations at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, Golden LEAF support was vital to the connection to the Town’s sewer system which was critical in expanding operations and adding new jobs Snowbird anticipates that over the next several years they will create 20 new full-time jobs at this location.
“The Town of Andrews was very supportive of our need and wanted to help but they were not able to contribute in any way to the cost of the project,” said Jones. “This meant that Snowbird had to find a way to fund the full project. We had been saving and fundraising for years for the connection, but we did not have the full amount. We are so thankful for Golden LEAF’s decision to support the public infrastructure related to the sewer line connection. I don’t know how it would’ve happened without it.”
Snowbird was affected by the pandemic, but was able to be operational with many changes, pivots, and ingenuity. One of the major changes was about spacing out campers and using a cohort model which kept groups of campers safely separated from the large group.
“We remodeled five cabins so cohorts could enter and exit buildings without using a shared or common space,” said Jones. “This meant adding interior walls, moving doors, and building and installing exterior staircases so the second floor could be accessed from the outside.”
Snowbird is working on building up its attendees but understands it will take time to expand and recover from the pandemic.
“Once we entered Phase II, we were able to operate but the restrictions and mandates to do so created substantial costs in over what was budgeted and a much greater workload on our staff,” said Jones. “In spite of all the challenges, we are thankful we could finally open and grateful that a large percentage of our attendees still chose to come to camp. We finished summer camp 2020 running eight of our 11 weeks with a total of 3,843 summer attendees.”
The expansion process is underway, and attendees are up to 9,840 to date compared to 2020’s total of 7,139 attendees. Even with the pandemic reducing the number of participants, Snowbird has created 13 new full-time jobs.
“The sewer connection was the critical and necessary first step in infrastructure expansion in order to grow the camp and add attendees,” said Jones. “We still have to add cabins and bathhouses and expand dining and recreation facilities before we can actually add attendees in any significant number. The essential piece to drive job expansion is additional attendees.”
“From the beginning we knew it would be impossible to add and expand in all these areas all at the same time,” said Jones. “I’m pleased to say that we’ve already added an additional 12 toilets and 12 showers since connecting to the Town of Andrews sewer. This is a huge first step!”