Spring has sprung (finally!) and… Things are really heating up in the Gorge

By Kevin Cooley

Mayor, Town of Lake Lure

We locals know that spring is just around the corner in Lake Lure when the collegiate rowers show up at Rumbling Bald Resort and begin training on our lake. So it was a welcomed sight again this year to see collegiate teams showing up in the last week of February and training during week-long stays through the end of March. The 11 teams that came here this year have all gone “back to school” at their respective colleges and universities. You might think the rowing season on our lake is over. Well think again…

The newly-formed Lake Lure Rowing Club is taking shape and its founders (and plan-to-be residents of Lake Lure), Wade Oppliger and Leslie Rowland, are already training on our lake year-round. They’ve joined a few “early rising” locals who row for exercise on the lake around sunrise before the lake gets busy. Wade and Leslie are world-class rowers… competing regularly in national and international Master’s rowing competitions. In fact, Leslie is a “world champion”. They are actively recruiting others to join their new club and compete with them as representatives of Lake Lure.  

As the club grows… they plan to hold training seminars and, someday, races on the lake. This should stimulate healthy growth and economic development in our lake-resort community and mesh well with the culture. Wade and Leslie are actively working with the Town to secure a lakeside location for a future boat barn and club headquarters. We have an eye on some Town property adjoining the Town boathouse and dock near the ABC store. They’ll also be working with Lake Lure Classical Academy to form an LLCA rowing team. In fact, they’ve already begun wooing a potential “coach”… another world-class, rower-friend of theirs and an experienced youth rowing coach.

I hope, like me, you’re excited about seeing this initiative take shape. Know that our Lake Advisory Board and Marine Commission are closely involved to ensure that the Club is a positive addition to the “Lake Life” in the Gorge and doesn’t interfere with other recreational activities and our enjoyment of the lake. If you’re up early and see Wade and Leslie rowing, say “hi and welcome to the community”.

As we transition toward our busy summer season… here are a few community events and activities to put on your calendar:

  • 1st Annual Lake Lure Classic Boat and Car Show (May 10th and 11th at the Beach)
    • Co-sponsored by the Blue Ridge Chapter of the national Antique & Classic Boat Society and the Great Smoke Mountain Region and Little Detroit Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America
    • Hosted by Lake Lure Tours and the Lake Lure Inn & Spa
    • May 10th “Boat Parade” and Low Country Boil (buffet dinner on the beach)
    • May 11th – classic boat and car exposition (free public event)
  • Spring Lake Lure Arts & Crafts Show (May 25th – 27th)
    • A charitable fund-raising event benefiting Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach
    • 109 vendor booth spaces; 80+ artisans and 12 food and refreshment vendors
    • High-quality, unique, hand-made art and craft items, displayed and sold by the “makers”
    • Continuous live entertainment
  • Memorial Day Ceremony (May 27th @ the Town Memorial Kiosk located in the parking area between the Lake Lure Inn & Spa and the Arcade Commerce Building)
    • Hosted by the Town and the Lake Lure Inn & Spa
    • A commemorative tribute to those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” to defend and protect our nation
    • Mayor’s welcome and comments, invocation & pledge of allegiance, tribute address by a local veteran, patriotic songs, taps & color guard flag lowering/raising honor ceremony
    • Complimentary refreshments
  • Lure of the Lake – Open Water Swim Event (Saturday, June 8th @ the Lake Lure Beach, 10am – 1pm)
    • Hosted by the Town, Lake Lure Tours and the Lake Lure Olympiad Committee
    • 2 long-distance swim races – 1.5 mile and 3.0 mile
    • Net proceeds to benefit HNG Outreach and local first-responders
    • Free public spectator event

One last thing while I’m on the topic of “things heating up”. Unfortunately, it’s something that really heated my up when I saw the front page headline in the March 27, 2019 edition of the Daily Courier that said “Engineers rule dam unsafe”. This headlined an article written by Ritchie Starnes reporting on an extensive presentation by the Town’s dam engineering firm, Schnabel Engineers, made during a 3-hour workshop on the previous day at Town Hall.

I contend that the headline was very misleading and unnecessarily alarming. It didn’t reflect the content of Mr. Starnes’ article and it was certainly not what our dam engineers reported.

In my opinion and virtually everyone else with whom I’ve spoken that attended the workshop… the “bottom line” of Schnabel’s presentation was that our dam is in fair condition for its age. However, like virtually every other element of public infrastructure that was designed and built almost 100 years ago… it doesn’t meet all current dam safety standards. For our dam… we’re referring to standards that were adopted in the 1970’s… 50 years after the dam was built. The engineers did favorably report that our dam: (1) was an “engineering marvel” when constructed back in the 1920’s and; (2) it has performed very well over the years including most recently during several major storm events during 2018. 

Schnabel’s presentation indicated that the dam meets most, but not all, modern safety standards. Here are the exceptions:

  1. A 1 in 10,000 year earthquake (1% chance of occurring in 100 years) that occurs in winter months and shakes the dam along it’s longitudinal access (from side to side), can overstress areas in the arch region of the dam an could cause significant damage to the structure, and;
  2. When subjected to some extreme, theoretical loading (flooding) cases… the concrete gravity spillway sections do not meet global stability (safety factor) requirements.

Frankly, I considered this to be “good news” from the engineers. However, Schnabel also identified some “high-priority” items needing immediate attention including: 

  1. Replacing the gate hoist mechanism on the intake structure, and;
  2. Reinforcing “thin spots” on the penstock (inlet piping) for the generator turbines in the hydro-electric station.

The Town staff and Council are immediately moving forward these two critical repair items. The Council unanimously passed a $370,000 Budget Amendment budget at our April 9, 2019 Town Council Meeting to fund the hoist repair. This repair must be done before the penstock can be safely repaired.

I want our citizens to know that the Town is committed and moving forward to address all safety-related and other needed dam repair and renovation improvements… regardless of what you might read in the newspaper.

Best regards,

Kevin