MARLBORO MUSINGS: Lake Paul Wallace: Phoenix Rising

The proof is in the pudding, and if you were among those who doubted that the Lake Paul Wallace Authority was sincere about their plans for this Pee Dee jewel then ride out and enjoy a bowl because the resurrection and polishing up has begun.

And it’s about time.

When I was young, the Lake was the place to be. I can recall sunny summer weekends when families would spread blankets out on the terraces and enjoy the Lake like a day at Myrtle Beach. Or, on the sporting side, and a little later In life—still pre-driver’s license—when Miss Sally Faison would take Buddy and myself out to Jack’s Island and drop us and the night crawlers we’d caught off so we could catch a stringer full of cane-pole catfish, then picking us up after work that afternoon. Or as a teen, anytime I wanted a boat ride or to do a little skiing or tubing, all I had to do was pull into the boating area and crawl into a boat. There was always someone out there motoring around.

I’ll say it again: I was one blessed kid growing up where and how I did.

Anyway, “back in the day,” as they say, Lake Paul Wallace was the summertime place to be around these parts. And while times have changed quite a bit since its glory days, the Lake certainly still has a spot as a destination consideration and the Lake Authority is determined to position it to best fill that niche. To that end, a massive improvement program has been initiated that has already yielded noticeable results with the removal of old rusted fencing and installation of new black fencing along Country Club Drive and Jefferson Street, as well as  the clearing of grown up brush, laying of new asphalt in the boat ramp area and other structural enhancements.

While they currently don’t plan to bring back the high dive that so many area “aquanuts” once relished—nor the submarine races that many area couples once enjoyed from the hilltop at the corner of Jefferson Street and Country Club Drive—they do have ambitious dreams. And the best part? They are just getting started.

Future plans call for upgrading the 3.2 mile walking trail along the diversion dam and eastern shore of the Lake to make it more attractive and encourage its use, as well as the development of campsites along the lakeshore, particularly in the area near the old Boy Scout Adirondack camping area, and creation of a new fishing pier.

Jack’s Island will also get a makeover as the picnic shelter and other issues will be addressed and the entire area cleaned with the goal of increasing its use for family gatherings and functions.

Water levels are back up on the boating side as SCDNR has given us the “Thumbs Up” on our dam’s integrity after the Lake was drained so that it could be checked after last year’s record rainfall. The water level on the fishing side remains low as more work needs to be done in order to ensure we get the sporting fish population balance correct, in addition to addressing boat ramp repairs and other issues.

But the focus of the improvements will be on the beach and boating area, as they should. This highly visible, centrally located spot should be the social heartbeat of Marlboro County. If you were among those who attended the Fourth of July fireworks show at Lake Paul Wallace last year, I’d bet you would agree that was a special night. It was cool for us all to come together. We need to do it more often. And this is the spot to do it. Watersports, concerts and athletic competitions could easily be held there, as well as community events such as movie nights. How’d you like to watch “Finding Nemo” or “The Little Mermaid” with your kids out at the Lake? Or, how about “Jaws”–from an inner tube out IN the Lake?

It was unfortunate learning recently that the far-reaching County recreation initiative was going to have to be delayed due to funding concerns; it would have tied very nicely into the Lake Paul Wallace improvement project. But that’s the breaks. The fact remains that we have ambitious local officials—city, county, and state–who are looking far down the road, which indicates to me that we have leaders that are preparing us for our future, leaders who are not going to just walk away from, but will just table this matter for now and start looking for other funding options. And I’d bet they eventually find them.

The bottom line is we are not going to simply accept the status quo any longer. It’s time for things to get better, and it’s up to us to make them better. If you have an idea, join with these “doers”; get involved and make something happen.

Folks, we have a true treasure sitting in our backyard with Lake Paul Wallace. We neglected the old gal for a while but she’s OK with that and she’s ready for her comeback. Enjoy the show.

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