YMCA Camp Watia on Fontana Lake to Open in 2016

Written by mike

Western North Carolina has tons of summer camps for kids but a lot of them are a bit too expensive for families to afford sending their kids. According to the YMCA of Western North Carolina that is about to change – at least it will by sometime in 2016. According to Paul Vest who serves as President and CEO of the YMCA of WNC – in a recent press release:

“Scheduled to open the summer of 2016, YMCA Camp Watia will be an affordable resident camp with the intent of serving all children in Western North Carolina, regardless of socioeconomic level,” Vest said.

The overnight youth camp is expected to cost $550 a week, said Jes Williams, vice president of organizational and financial development for the YMCA of Western North Carolina.

Obviously a lot of Western NC families may share that even that pricing may be way out of reach for many of them, however Ms. Williams added,

“We still know that may be way out of reach for a lot of families,” she said. “We would offer financial assistance and a scholarship program.”

The camp is expected to open with a two-story dining hall and eight cabins that will each sleep 12 campers, Williams said.


The YMCA of WNC will break ground in May for the first, $6 million phase of a 900-acre residential camp in Swain County.

Located west of Bryson City near Fontana Lake and the village of Almond, YMCA Camp Watia will serve children from Western North Carolina who might not have the opportunity to experience the mountains, streams, trails and wealth of recreational activities throughout the region, said Paul Vest, president and chief executive officer for the YMCA of WNC, within the same news release.

Many people will recognize that area is also home to the Nantahala Outdoor Center and it’s not a coincidence that the new YMCA camp will be built there. Ken and Nancy Glass of Buncombe County purchased the land which is about three miles from the NOC for the great location. They donated the property to the YMCA for the purpose of building the camp that will include sports, boating, team-building, swimming, archery and crafts while focusing on the area’s history, Cherokee culture and the environment.

The Glass family purchased the land — a one-time Christmas tree farm — 10 years ago, according to Swain County Manager Kevin King.

“We thought it was a perfect location for a resident youth camp where kids could have a life-changing camping experience,” Ken Glass said in the release. “Our family has certainly benefited from our relationship with the Y and would like to be able to share this great property and the YMCA’s values with future generations.”

So far, $2.5 million has been raised for construction thanks to donations from individuals, foundations, companies and corporate supporters, Williams said. In addition to the Glass family, The Glass Foundation and 100 community partners are involved with the project.

The camp is expected to create year-round and seasonal jobs.

“This will bring in out-of-town guests to the area, probably family members bringing their kids here,” King said. “It also will create another activity for local kids.”

A YMCA study indicated a significant portion of the youth who come to camps in Western North Carolina live at least 500 miles away, Williams said.

“They did not necessarily cater to our children,” she said. “We thought we could fill that niche.”

They expect the camp to be in operation eight weeks out of the summer.


The YMCA of Western North Carolina serves Buncombe, Henderson and McDowell counties with six centers, 25 elementary-age after-school sites and six middle-school age after-school sites. The Y operates several summer camp programs, but this will be its first residential facility.