Lake Vesuvius to be officially reopened

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2004

Then, now and tomorrow - the Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area means so

many different things to so many people.

As summer approaches, the greenish-blue water ripples in the wind for the first time in three years. Lush green trees tower overhead along the lake shore, providing a scenic outdoor escape that offers something for nearly everybody.

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Wayne National Forest officials want to the community to join them from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to celebrate the reopening - a day that will focus on the past, present and future of the historic lake area.

"We will have music, food and relaxation," said Gloria Chrismer, Ironton District Ranger. "It is going to be a nice day at the lake. We want everyone to join us."

Lake Vesuvius was drained in January 2001 and much of the 143-acre recreation area within the Wayne National Forest was closed while a 1,400-foot boardwalk and fishing pier that connects the boat ramp with the dam was built. Other improvements were made to the dam and boat ramp area.

The lake actually became a lake once again this February after the dam valve was closed. The recreation area provides a variety of outdoor opportunities including hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, boating, the OUS Nature Center and much more.

Ironton resident John Heft lives nearby, so he has a short trip as he tries to visit the lake at least once a week to walk his three dogs and enjoy the scenery.

"I love what they have built here. The dogs love it," he said while standing on top of the dam. "It is a real treasure. I think it is a real asset. People from all over the United States would enjoy coming here. I love it and am glad I live nearby."

Josh Greenwood of Charleston, W.Va., and Matthew Graham of San Diego, Calif., but living in Huntington, W.Va., visited the lake area for the first time Thursday to enjoy a little hiking. Both of the biology majors liked what they saw as they hit the 16-mile trail.

"Just getting away from everything is fun," Graham said.

Hiking trails are ready to go, but the beach area will open on Memorial Day Swimming will not be allowed off of the boardwalk, boat dock or the dam area, Chrismer said.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife restocked the lake with trout, bluegill an crappie, but it will be a few years before the fishing is as good as it once was. Only canoes, paddle boats and boats with small electric motors are allowed on the lake.

Monday's activities will include a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. to recognize those who have contributed to the many improvements at the lake.

Activities will be spread out from the outdoor amphitheater over to the boardwalk. The Ironton High School Varsity Singers will sing the "Star Spangled Banner" during the ribbon cutting. The Rock Hill High School Band, Blue Country, the Aaron Miller Band and other local acts will provide musical entertainment.

At 1 p.m., the Forest Service will dedicate a new historic marker at the Lake Vesuvius Furnace, emphasizing the important role the furnace played in the area's iron industry and the entire community, Chrismer said.

"It is really interesting to see how important our past is to us and how much has changed since the days of the furnace," she said. "The forests were gone at the turn of the century. The Wayne has been instrumental in restoring the forest. Seeing it now shows the importance of that."

About 200 members of the original Civilian Conservation Corps from Pedro completed the dam, campgrounds and seven buildings in 1941. Chrismer said they hope to locate some of these individuals so they can come share the day.

In addition to a variety of official speakers, everyone from the forest's district office will be on hand to meet with the community and thank them for their assistance and patience, Chrismer said.

"If (you) see someone in a uniform, walk up and talk to them," she said. "If you like what we are doing, tell us. If you don't like what we are doing, tell us what you would like to see."

Merri Warden, Natural Wonders coordinator for Ohio University Southern's Nature Center that is located at the foot of the dam, said they will be ready to thrill and amaze visitors.

"We will be open and people are welcome to come in and look around," she said. "We will have lots of reptiles such as the snakes, alligators, iguanas and more."

The Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce, Ohio University Southern, the OUS Nature Center and the Friends of Freedom Society have all helped sponsor the celebration.