Finding a happy place
Deena Wade and Larry Deal started out with a simple plan - find a scenic, quiet place to live. Deal, who owns New Earth Shelters on Cherry Street, would build a custom, energy-efficient timber frame home to suit their needs.
What the Black Mountain residents found, just over the mountain in Old Fort, was not only the perfect site for them, but also what they believe will be “your new happy place” too.
Deal had been familiar with Jack’s Mountain, which overlooks the former Old Fort Golf Course south of Interstate 40, for a long time.
“I’ve been driving by this mountain for the past five years, and I love it,” he said. “I always thought ‘that’s such a beautiful mountain.’ I told Deena ‘I think we should look around Jack’s Mountain.’”
Deal found out that the golf course owned the peak of the small mountain.
“I talked to (the golf course) about buying a lot, and they had one for sale that we liked,” Deal said. “We made an offer, and they told us they had to let us know the golf course was for sale. I came home and talked to Deena, and she said ‘I’m not interested.’”
Deal and Wade were concerned about the future of the land if the golf course were purchased.
“We know what people do with golf courses when they buy them,” Deal said. “I have a friend in Florida who lives on a fairway of a beautiful golf course for 18 years, and now he has a new condo in his backyard. Because that’s what they do to golf courses, because golf courses are losing money.”
But as Wade and Deal walked the property, they couldn’t help but be inspired by the possibilities presented by the platted, mountainside lots surrounding the lush greens of the golf course. So they bought the entire 80-acre site. They named their development Jack's Mountain Preserve in honor of the landmark that first piqued their interest.
"We really wanted to preserve the integrity of the land here," Wade said. "We didn't want to come in here and make it unrecognizable and build on every possible inch. We want to keep as many of the trees as possible, and we're looking at putting the top of the mountain into a conservation easement."
They decided to keep the golf course, which was designed by John R. Van Kleek, a golf course architect who designed courses all over the world during what is recognized as the golden age of golf course architecture, between 1910 and 1940.
The Old Fort Golf Course, built by local residents, opened in 1962. "The course was a labor of love, and we wanted to preserve it," Deal said.
With the mountaintop and golf course protected, Deal and Wade's vision for Jack's Mountain Preserve began to come into focus. They wanted to create a place that was appealing to young and older people that would feel like home for residents and be a destination for people looking for a peaceful mountain setting.
They brought on Fred Edwards to manage the golf course. He suggested the development offer FootGolf, a nationally popular sport that borrows heavily from the rules of golf, but requires only a soccer ball. The golf course bought new golf carts to improve the overall experience at the nine-hole course.
The existing cafe was revamped and re-branded the Farm to Grill Cafe, focused on locally sourced ingredients. Currently under construction is a community garden that will also supply the cafe.
On the second floor of the clubhouse, above the cafe, is an event space that is currently home to weekly yoga classes, women's self-defense classes and martial arts lessons.
The idea, according to Wade, is to create a sustainable community where recreational opportunities abound.
"We'll eventually be hosting private events, such as weddings, family gatherings, retreats, things like that," she said. "We have plans to develop trails to the top of (Jack's Mountain) too.
The golf course has served as a backdrop for concerts that featured Sarah Tucker, the Paper Crowns, the Big Deal Band (led by Deal and his son Grayson) and The Belfast Boys, who performed on Sept. 15 in the last concert of the season.
By next spring Deal and Wade hope to have sites for "glamping," which is short for a glamorous sort of camping.
"We're going to have safari-style tents that will have a real bed and a dresser in them," Wade said. "We have a spot we've already selected where we'll have around four sites. It will be a fun outdoor experience for people to be outdoors, and then they can walk right over (to the clubhouse) to use one of the showers, grab something to eat from the cafe and maybe go play some FootGolf."
For people looking for something more permanent, slightly more than 40 home lots are available. There are four options for those interested in building at Jack's Mountain Preserve, according to Wade.
One section, which features quarter-acre lots, is reserved for what Wade calls "upscale log cabins," which will have amenities such as lofts and granite countertops. Another area with similar lots will feature small cottages with footprints ranging in size from 600-1,200 square feet. Half-acre lots are available for homes that can have footprints as large as 2,000 square feet. A fourth option is for "four-plex" buildings. All of the lots are available for year-round residents and those who want to build vacation rentals.
The website - jacksmountainpreserve.com - describes the community as "your new happy place," which Wade believes perfectly captures the vision she shares with Deal.
"This property is a gem in the pocket of Old Fort," she said. "We want to use it for its highest and best purpose so it benefits the community and so that people from all around can enjoy everything it has to offer."