By Kevin Cooley

Mayor, Town of Lake Lure

Once again I’m asking myself that same annual question… “Where did the summer go?” It seems like only yesterday that we were opening the beach and welcoming hoards of visitors and residents to the Lake Lure Spring Arts & Crafts Festival during Memorial Day Weekend. Unfortunately, the summer season got off to a very stormy and soggy start with Tropical Storm Alberto, and we’ve continued to experience an above normal number of rainy days it seems all summer. Despite the rainy weather we’ve managed to rebound from the slow start and enjoy a relatively busy summer tourism season based on Town beach and boat tour attendance data. Now as Labor Day Weekend approaches (… the official end of the summer season) … our annual 2018 Dirty Dancing Festival is about to happen on August 24th and 25th and we’re looking ahead to our quickly-approaching Autumn Season.

For the past two years we’ve all heard the “buzz” about the World Equestrian Games (“the WEG”). Finally, this world-class event will take place from September 11th to the 23rd at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). With attendance estimates ranging from 350,000 to 500,000, this event will surely have major impacts on our region. Since the event is happening in our “backyard” ( a 30-minute drive of around 20 miles from downtown Lake Lure), lots of WEG visitors are expected to visit our gorgeous mountain-lake resort town. It sounds like most of our hotels, B&B’s and other vacation rentals have already experienced the impact from the WEG as many/most are “booked” during September which is usually a lull time between our Summer and Autumn (“Leaf”) seasons. Our Town has been “spruce’n up” in anticipation of seeing many new (1st time) visitors from WEG. No doubt you’ve seen the beautiful flowering baskets that now adorn our commercial corridor running through the Gorge from Lake Lure to Bat Cave. A big THANK YOU to our own Melody Potter and the volunteers that made this happen. I’m hoping this can become a “permanent” part of our streetscape that fits right in with our amazing Flowering Bridge attraction.

In past articles I’ve been writing about the good progress that we’ve been making on our major dam renovation and sewer system replacement projects. They are continuing to progress along well. Therefore, this month I’ll report on a few other important, on-going, Town activities as follows:

  • Storm Debris Containment System: We’ve purchased and will be installing in the near future a (heavy-duty) debris containment boom that will be located along the inlet channel to Lake Lure from the Rocky Broad River. Permanent concrete moorings will be constructed on both sides of the inlet channel. The boom will normally be “retracted”… fixed along one shoreline. If/as a major storm approaches our area (like T.S. Albert) we’ll deploy the boom across the channel securing it to the mooring on the opposite shoreline. The boom will trap/collect large debris in the inlet channel as it comes down the River before it “gets loose” into the Lake. When the storm passes trapped debris will then be efficiently removed from the channel with “long-reach” equipment operating along the shoreline and placed into trucks for hauling to a disposal site. This type of debris containment/collection system has been successfully used in similar settings around the country including within the Colorado River. Our Lake Operations Manager, Dean Givens, and his “study team” identified and recommended this system. They believe it will function very effectively to help us avoid (or at least minimize the duration of) closing the lake to collect and removed storm debris that’s been flushed into the Lake and widely dispersed.
  • Lake Dredging: We’ve selected and hired a new dredging contractor, Tim Edwards Landscaping (TEL). Most locals know this company only as a landscape materials supplier and contractor, but few know (yet) that TEL also performs dredging and spoils disposal. Tim’s crew began working on the Town’s annual dredging project on August 6th. Since dredging in Lake Lure is prohibited until October when fish are done spawning in the lake, Tim’s crew will be working to clean out the “settling pits” along the Boys Camp Road side of the inlet channel in which dredged material was left last year in the pits by the former dredging contractor. TEL will empty and recondition the pits to support operations when dredging begins in October. Right off the bat we received some “good news” from Tim as he embarked on the project that he could reduce the anticipated initial cost for emptying the pits and disposing of the “left-behind” dredged spoils material by using the material onsite to improve the existing site rather than incurring anticipated costs to haul it off and dispose it at a remote site. Tim has also purchased a refurbished dredge that will be dedicated to our project. The dredge will be delivered during the week of August 20th and mobilized into the inlet channel. The initial dredging will take place in the inlet channel to create an underwater, trench-basin where sediment will be deposited before it is flushed out of the channel and into main channel of the lake. After the basin is created, the dredge will be moved out to the mouth of the inlet channel where it enters the lake around the point adjoining Marina Bay. This area is heavily transited by boats and has become extremely shallow (3’ to 5’). Boats navigating this area are causing mud plumes from their props and our goal is to deepen this area by approximately 2 ft. by the time the dredging operations must conclude at the end of February 2019. The Town is also working on a dual-use plan for the property we recently acquired along Boys Camp Road that adjoins our existing bridge pits. The dual-use concept for this site combines the expansion of the existing dredge pits and operational area into this new Town-owned property with a passive recreation park. The additional anticipated benefit of this plan is the elimination of the existing dredge pits in Morse Park and the conversion of that space to additional park amenities. More to come on this exciting plan soon.
  • New Town Employees in Key Staff Positions: We are pleased to welcome several extremely well-qualified and talented new Town employees who were recently hired to fill open/vacant staff positions.

ShaLinda Pruit joined our Town staff on August 1st. She replaced Michelle Jolly as our front-desk receptionist and customer service provider. ShaLinda has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in internet marketing. She is now the “smiling face” you’ll typically see when you enter Town Hall. Michelle Jolley who had been doing double-duty can now devote her full focus and time to serving as our Town Clerk, a very demanding, full-time position.

On August 6th Brian Tate joined our staff as Assistant Fire Chief. He resides in Forest City and was a Forest City Fire fireman prior to accepting the open/vacant Assistant Fire Chief position that was created when Dustin Waycaster was promoted to Chief to fill the vacancy created when former Chief Ron Morgan retired.

Finally, On September 4th Laura Krejci will join our Town staff in the newly created (in-house) position of Communications Specialist. She’ll be performing many of the duties and responsibilities that the Town had previously outsourced to Valerie Hoffman. Laura has recently moved to Lake Lure and decided after a long and distinguished career with the Department of Veterans Affairs to leave the VA and employ her talents locally. She has served in a National role since 2010 as an Associate Director in the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation. Ms. Krejci led the Office’s communication efforts including national community practice meetings and she managed the creation of innovative communication strategies including the development of eBooks, videos, print products, and the Offices websites.

Please know that you’re always welcome to “contact the Mayor” and stop by Town Hall to say “hi” and ask “what’s going on”. I’m generally in my office at Town Hall on weekdays from about 9am to 5pm. However, it’s probably not a bad idea to call and check to be sure I’m there ( and not in another darn meeting) before coming over to see me.

Best regards