Conley Bottom Resort engulfed in flames
Hours after a fire wiped out the office, restaurant and ship store at Conley Bottom Resort on Lake Cumberland early May 20, owner Fred Piercy pledged the popular marina would be open for the busy Memorial Day weekend.
With gray smoke still pouring from hot spots in the rubble of the main dock, it seemed like a tall order.
Piercy said he and employees had prayer together, then came up with a plan.
The electrical system had to be repaired and tested. The gas dock had to be moved and checked. There was plumbing work to be done. Damage from the fire blocked access to hundreds of slips, so employees had to create a walkway to bypass that spot.
“They’re gonna be ready to go,” Wayne County Judge-Executive Mike Anderson said Friday morning. “It just won’t look the same.”
The center of the marina is still a pile of charred wood and twisted sheet metal.
But the marina installed a small storage building on the dock to serve as an office and small store, and turned one of its rental houseboats into a reservations office, marked by a hand-lettered sign on posterboard.
There’s no food service yet, but Piercy said there is consideration of bringing in a food truck for the summer to serve visitors.
Piercy’s phone rang every couple of minutes Thursday as he fielded questions about what to do next, putting out literal fires in the wake of the real one.
One employee was trying to move slips but didn’t have experience doing that; Piercy sent another employee to help. Someone was making sure the gas pumps were ready to go. A former employee who came out of retirement to help was stretched out on the dock in the muggy heat, testing the electrical system.
“It’s been tough,” Piercy said. “Just trying to figure out what we need the worst.”
Still, Piercy said the situation could have been worse.
He and another employee were able to use the marina’s fireboat to spray down slips and boats near the blaze, which helped keep it from spreading.
Without that, the fire might have destroyed scores of boats. As it was, the only vessels lost in the blaze were a houseboat and a pontoon owned by a business, Piercy said.
It also would have been far worse for the fire to happen this weekend or later during tourist season, when there would have been many more people at the marina and so more potential for someone to get hurt, Piercy said.
As it was, no one was hurt in the fire, which a security guard discovered about 2 a.m.
“The Lord’s blessed us so much,” Piercy said.
Piercy said the electricity had been cutting off at times at the marina before the fire. However, the cause of the blaze hasn’t yet been determined.
The marina had insurance, but not nearly enough to cover the loss, Piercy said.
For example, there was $100,000 insurance on the contents of the buildings, but with the store fully stocked for tourist season with clothing and other items, the loss was far greater than that, Piercy said.
Phillip Glass, who has a houseboat at the marina, started a GoFundMe page to benefit Conley Bottom.
It had about $4,000 in donations as of Friday morning, Glass said.
People in the community have also donated food to help Piercy and his employees, Glass said.
“It’s just a steady line of people. Everyone wants to help,” he said.
On Thursday, Joe Silvers, who owns Silvers Hometown Pharmacy in Monticello, brought coolers full of food from a barbecue restaurant in Somerset at lunchtime.
“It’s just the right thing to do. Lend a helping hand to your neighbor — give God the glory,” Silvers said.
A screenprinting shop in Somerset called JATS created T-shirts that read “Conley Bottom Strong.” The owner, Leroy Gosser, who often fishes at the lake, said he is donating half the $10 cost of each shirt to the marina.
Conley Bottom has been open since the early 1950s, so it’s long been an institution on the lake. It also provides dozens of jobs, Anderson said.
Employees were taking care of last-minute details Friday. For instance, Bob Gresham said he was still doing some work on the electric system.
“Things are going good today,” Gresham said.