Vesuvius valve closed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Lake Vesuvius dam valve has been closed, so the rest is up to Mother Nature.

Wayne National Forest officials and a few interested locals gathered atop the dam in the Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area Monday as the spillway valve was closed, which will allow the lake to begin refilling.

"This is the culmination of three years' work," Ironton District Ranger Gloria Chrismer said. "It is right at the top of the list of the high points. We are all excited."

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Everyone may get even more excited once nature takes its course and the lake fills up, a process that could take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks.

"With the correct ground conditions of saturation, a two- to three-inch rain and the lake will be full," said Cindy Henderson, a U.S. Forest Service inspector for the dam and boardwalk project. "Years ago when the design engineers picked a place to build a lake, they picked a good watershed."

An official reopening ceremony is being planned for late May or June of next year.

Lake Vesuvius was drained in January 2001 and much of the 143-acre recreation area of the Wayne National Forest has been closed to allow for improvements to the dam and boat ramp that included constructing a boardwalk and fishing pier.

"A lot of people came and walked around in the bottom of the lake because they had never seen it empty," Chrismer said. "But everyone is ready to see it filled."

Originally, the dam valve was hoped to be closed by the end of October but a rainy summer delayed the project.

The $4.1 million dam and spillway renovation project and

the $1 million boardwalk project has been completed.

J & H Erectors Inc. of Portsmouth built the 1,400 foot boardwalk that connects the boat ramp with the dam. Fully handicapped accessible, it also includes a shaded fishing pier.

The boat ramp parking lot has been expanded and a second entrance has been added. The boat ramp itself has been widened and new restrooms and dock points were added. The parking lot will be paved this spring.

Chrismer said she thinks all the additions will really benefit the recreational value of the lake area.

"This place has a lot of use during the week and on the weekends," Chrismer said. "The trails are really nice. People swim here, fish here or just come out to sightsee."

"I am happy about this boardwalk," she said. "We have had a lot of comments on it that people will be bringing their families and be out on the lake. It will be a real asset to the community."

Jim Crawford is one person who will enjoy seeing the sunshine glisten on a full lake. The Pedro resident lives nearby and has watched the project progress nearly every day for the past three years.

"It will be great. It has been a long wait, but it will be a worthwhile wait," he said. "I think the boardwalk part means the most to me because it is handicapped accessible."

Countless volunteers added Christmas trees, logs and other structures on the lake bottom to create fish habitats. The lake will be restocked with bluegill, bass, catfish and crappie this spring.

Overall, the Forest Service hopes these improvements are just a beginning of more good things to come.

"What we want to do is continue to improve. We want to make more improvements to trails to make it accessible to bicycles," Chrismer said. "This is not the end. I am really interested in upgrading the campgrounds. They are nice but are getting a little outdated now."