Since the town of Hope Mills press release March 27, regarding the Hope Mills Lake Bulkhead project, folks have been asking questions and scratching their heads. Most ask, “why now?” and “how long will the lake park, boat ramp and community swimming areas be closed over the summer?’ I hear you, so please allow me to weigh in on both questions.
Let us start with the “why now?” question. During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, I asked him to pick three months out of the year to start the bulkhead project. During our discussion, we decided the winter months would not be optimal because the plan includes about $30,000 of centipede sod. And, the fall months are not optimal because of the active hurricane season. Given the past four years’ fall weather track record, do you really want to risk a $500,000 project to unpredictable weather? No way!
So finally, we ended up saying, “I guess you are right … there really is no right time of the year to complete this project. So let’s get on with it and perhaps the weather will be favorable over the coming months.”
The bulkhead project is Phase II of the Hope Mills Lake Park Recreational Improvement Plan submitted by the Lake Advisory Committee and approved by the town board in 2018. The bulkhead structure addresses the erosion controls measures, as detailed in the United States Army Corps of Engineers Dam Permit, dated August 26, 2016. If you notice, there are several areas along the lakeside bank (cliff, as I call it) that are unsafe — mainly due to uncontrolled erosion of the ground areas.
Also detailed in the Army Corps of Engineers permit is the requirement to improve the lake park area for community recreational use. For example, item 17 states, “The plan should include detail improvements to the public use swimming area, piers/docks, and fishing and boat ramp areas, as well as plans for the museum project.” Therefore, the bulkhead project also includes re-sloping the grade of the lakeside bank/cliff, a new irrigation system throughout the park to feed the centipede sod, new stairs to access the swimming area, an access ramp compliant with the American’s with Disabilities Act and a new kayak/canoe entrance area into the lake. Moreover, more planned recreational improvements that do not require closure of the lake park will be completed once the project is finished.
Unfortunately, the lake park, boat ramp and swimming areas will be closed to complete the above listed lake park improvements. However, kayaks and canoes are permitted to use the lake — dependent on work progress. In addition, Big T’s and the public pier will remain open during the construction project.
Like you, I was looking forward to enjoying the lake park this year. Nevertheless, we must address the current and future erosion damage, or we will not have a lake park that is safe, ADA compliant and more aesthetically pleasing to everyone for years to come. After all, we have a first-class, national award-winning dam structure that has weathered not one, but several major storms since it was completed.
Our town manager, Melissa Adams, said it best: “There really is no optimal time for the lake to be closed for boating and swimming. While we understand there will be some inconvenience to the citizens and the many people that come to use our lake park, the project will result in a safe environment and help mitigate any further erosion damage to the lake embankment. Kayak and canoe access will be allowed to the greatest extent possible, dependent upon work location and progress. The town would like to thank the citizens in advance, for their patience and understanding for the duration of this project.”
Now the “how long” question. The simple answer here is all the required construction materials have been ordered. Once they arrive, the contractors — M&E Contracting of Fayetteville — have clearly stated they plan to work as “expeditiously as possible” to complete the bulkhead project with high quality standards in place.
The lake park is really going to look great once these projects are finished. So, cross your fingers and hope for nice weather.