Couple putting new face on familiar old resort at nearby Lake St. John

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The familiar Spokane Resort at Lake St. John is getting more than a facelift from new owners James and Sheryl Neely. The couple, who live at the lake and appreciate what an upgrade at Spokane means to residents there, purchased that property and additional adjacent land recently.

&uot;We own the house and lot next door and live about three-quarters of a mile down the road,&uot; James Neely said. &uot;I happened to talk to the former owner of Spokane, who said he was selling it, and the next thing I knew, we were buying it.&uot;

The Neelys, who own and operate a successful trucking company in Natchez, knew they faced many weeks of work to get the resort where they hoped to take it.

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The husband and wife agreed, however. The project was a worthy one and one they would enjoy &045; without giving up the trucking business.

&uot;There was a lot of general work to be done on the cabins &045; electrical, plumbing and general maintenance,&uot; Neely said. &uot;There was junk to clear and bushes to trim.&uot;

In addition, the couple decided to build a large pavilion, where they will put barbecue grills and picnic tables and benches for their guests to use.

&uot;And we’ve opened a store, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.,&uot; he said. In addition to bait for the fishermen, the store sells soft drinks, ready-made sandwiches and other convenience-store kinds of items.

Expansion at the resort will include the construction of town houses, beginning with four units soon to be under way. &uot;They will be two-story buildings, with two two-bedroom and two one-bedroom town houses, all with balconies overlooking the lake,&uot; Neely said.

In addition, the resort will include an area for recreational vehicles to be located across the street in a nearby lot.

Sheryl Neely said the goal is to provide a resort for many people &045; fishermen, business people and families.

&uot;We think the town houses will appeal to people who are busy with their businesses and want a chance to get away from the fast pace,&uot; Sheryl Neely said. &uot;And by offering all we plan to do, we think Spokane finally really will be a resort.&uot;

The Neelys bought a cabin on Lake St. John about 10 years ago. Then about five years ago decided to build their home there.

Their project at Spokane has prompted many neighbors to stop by and thank them for the renovations and new facilities.

&uot;It has been rewarding,&uot; James Neely said. &uot;Everybody tells us the place is looking so much better and how much they appreciate it.&uot;

Within about two weeks, the first parking for an RV will be ready. Ultimately, the plan calls for spaces for 20 recreational vehicles.

Construction will begin on the town houses after a large mobile home has been sold and moved off the lot where the houses will be built.

&uot;We’re really excited that we’ll have a great place in our pavilion for all the radio people and other folks involved in the flotilla,&uot; James Neely said, referring to the July 4 event during which contests and blessing of the boats takes place. &uot;It is a big project. But it is going to be nice.&uot;