Archive for May, 2014



As the busiest weekend of the year at Kerr Lake moves forward in the sunshine, the rain remnants of flooded campsites remind us that nearly 25 percent of the campers at the seven NC State Recreation Areas on the North Carolina side are not getting their Memorial Day holiday at Kerr Lake.

WRAL’s Tara Lynn updates the situation:

The lake’s level is still near 305 feet above sea level.

Posted in: KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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The 306’ water level at Kerr Lake is anticipated to lower to only about 305-feet above sea level for this weekend, the Memorial Day holiday.  In a testy, if not often heated meeting yesterday, the US Army Corps of Engineers took repeated questions and some direct hits from downstream farmers, the Roanoke River Basin Association, Kerr Lake Park Watch, other groups and citizens for varied concerns about the current high water.

A rain system entering the watershed last Thursday dumped as much as six inches of rain and was pretty much on target to be right over the areas of Kerr and its tributaries.   It caused a swift increase in the lake level from about 301.5’ to almost 307’ in the past few days.  That fact had people from various groups including Kerr Lake Park Watch asking the Corps in yesterday’s meeting, “Why is there a reduced flow of 15,000 CFS instead of 20,000 or 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second of water flow)? The answer given is that it is a critical time for Striped Bass making their way from the ocean up the Roanoke River to spawn.  If the water flow is too great, the fish don’t reproduce well.

While that answer may appease some, it’s not the best of news for campers at Kerr Lake.  “We understand that the lake is a complex entity for flood control, power generation, farming considerations, recreation, saving Virgin Cyprus trees and spawning fish,” commented Kerr Lake Park Watch Public Affairs Lead, Frank Timberlake, “But it’s tough, especially on the North Carolina side to tell 25% of the campers with reservations that they don’t have a spot for the first big camping holiday of the year, and it’s a site they had already reserved. Being four feet over the Corps’ guide curve because of striped bass is hard to explain to those folks; I’d certainly hate to try to explain it.  Kerr Lake is its own Geo-Tourism area and we have to continue to make sure that fact ranks and ranks high with lake decision-makers.

Bryce Fleming, Superintendent of the seven NC Kerr Lake State Recreation areas told KLPW today, “We have 150 campsites park-wide that will be unusable this weekend based on the current prediction.  The call center has a list of all impacted sites and is contacting all impacted campers via telephone and/or email.  The most recent lake level prediction for the beginning of Memorial Day weekend is about 305’ and continuing to recede slowly afterwards. That said, if campers want to check to make sure their sites are not flooded, they can call the park office at (252) 438-7791.”  Fleming added, “I know the timing of this flood is frustrating for Kerr Lake campers.  It is frustrating for us too because, up until 5/16, we were looking at having one of the best Memorial Day weekends in years.  I am updating the ALERT on our website today to make it current,”

Campgrounds under the operation of the US Army Corps of Engineers on the Virginia side of Kerr Lake have fared much better because typically, they are on higher ground.  “We have only about 15 campsites off our grid,” said Michael Womack, the OPS MGR for the Corps at Kerr.   â€œWe have contacted our campers that are impacted by the flooding of the sites listed above.  We have been able to accommodate all of our camping reservations for the weekend. If people have additional questions concerning Corps operated facilities they can call the Visitor Assistance Center at (434) 738-6143. We are hoping that we will be at 305 by Friday/Saturday but we will have to continue monitor inflows and adjust as needed.”  As the lake level lowers public areas affected return to public access and use.

Yesterday’s Corps meeting of the water management group provided some information that some swim areas, beaches and boat ramps on the Virginia side are closed.  The two Virginia State Parks on Kerr Lake are apparently not affected.  For the NC side, Fleming also confirmed that boat ramps, flooded bridges and that information will be updated on the park’s website.

Meanwhile, 25% of those campers who have plans for Kerr Lake on the North Carolina side will need to rethink what their family and friends will be for the upcoming holiday weekend.



Posted in: KLPW - Boating and Related Improvements, KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - Camping Safety, KLPW - Corps of Engineers Campgrounds, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - WATER RELATED, KLPW - Water Safety

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Kerr Lake Park Watch has issued a HIGH WATER NOTICE for Memorial Day Weekend.  Several KLPW members constantly monitor the water level of Kerr Lake which is measured hourly by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The normal “full pool” level is 300 feet.  That means that the lake level is 300 feet above mean sea level.

KLPW member Larry Matthews is one of those who has kept a sharp eye on the water level for years.  “I monitor the lake level every morning and my wife will tell you that I’m anal about it,” said Matthews.

Matthews pointed out that the lake has risen over six (6) feet since last Thursday (5/15/14).  He added, “There’s a lot of the public areas at Hibernia for camping and picnicking that are pretty much totally underwater, mostly due to last Thursday’s monsoons.”

Matthews is referring to heavy rains that moved into the Kerr Lake area last Thursday and dumped multiple inches of rain into the lake and widely over the lake’s watershed.  Matthews recorded a lake level of 306.94 this morning and at 10:00 PM the lake level was 306.76.

Matthews offered Memorial Day weekend visitors and campers some pre-checking advice, “If you are planning on camping this weekend at Kerr Lake, especially on sites around the water, you better check with your respective park reservation system or park officials about the availability of your campsite.”

Kerr Lake’s high water level comes at a particularly bad time as Memorial Day Weekend is an unofficial kick off to all things water and outdoors at the lake.  The Memorial Day holiday, July Fourth, and Labor Day are the three highest attendance weekends out of every year.  Traditionally, most parks book every campsite, picnic shelter and facilities on those three holidays.

Kerr Lake Park Watch has sent the three agencies responsible for camping on the lake request for information in order to ascertain how many sites may removed from the camping inventory due to flooding.

Posted in: KLPW - Camping Safety, KLPW - Corps of Engineers Campgrounds, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW- Staunton River State Park

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Within a matter of days, Staunton River opens for a new season and this year that’s not all that’s new.


At Staunton River State Park, preparations are under way for the 2014 summer season opening. Although park manager Adam Layman is certainly not new to the park, he officially assumed the position of manager last November. Over the winter, he and his staff have been staying busy with planning and preparing for the busy months ahead.


According to Pat Eastwood, Virginia State Parks Visitor Services Specialist for the Southern region, Layman began working at Staunton River State Park as a seasonal maintenance ranger in 2001. He continued to work as a seasonal employee summers and weekends through high school. While attending college he worked summers and semester breaks at the park. During this time he also worked as a conservation intern.


Layman graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2007 with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Forestry, Forest Resource Management. He began full time employment as a park ranger in August of 2007 and then became Park Ranger Law Enforcement in 2008. He became Chief Ranger in 2010 and Assistant Park Manager in January 2012. He has been acting Park Manager since July 2012. In his spare time he enjoys fishing and woodworking.


Layman is a lifelong resident of Halifax County. He says“ I’m looking forward to continuing the tradition we have established of providing excellent customer service and satisfaction to all of our guests, and making SRSP the place our guests want to return to year after year.”  While the park is open year round, the pool and concessions will open for the summer season on May 23 for Memorial Day weekend. The pool will remain open through Labor Day.


For information about programs and activities at Staunton River State Park, you may call the park at 434-572-4623. To make overnight reservations for camping or cabins visit or call the Customer Service Center at 800-933-PARK (7275).

You can click on this link for a Google Map locator showing where Staunton River State Park is located:,-78.676809,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xf3f27b91ba1b53cc.



Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW- Staunton River State Park

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CAMPSITES AT KERR LAKE – Right Way & Wrong Way

CAMPSITES AT KERR LAKE – Right Way & Wrong Way

1010887_687519747976981_3613544422150580687_nWhen the original campsites were put in around Kerr Lake in the 1960’s most consisted of a graded off site, sloped in relation to the ground around and fairly unlevel.  Then came the lean-to’s, the tents and a few trailers.  A good site might have some gravel spewed across it and a picnic table.  Then came 20-amp electric service and shared water but the campsites still remained “undefined” meaning it had no borders.  Campground borders keep neighboring campers friends and also do less damage to the land resource.  Be sure to read and view to the end because it does get better!

Now, with all the gadgets that campers possess, even tenters want electricity and water on a fairly level site, which around any lake that is a flood control project cannot entirely be level because of flooding; thus the site must be slightly downhill towards the water.  Travel trailers demand 30-amp service and Fifth Wheels and Motorhomes demand 50-amp service, oh, and a level “defined” campsite that’s on one level!

10170964_687519831310306_4733875143459748198_nAbout the time that Kerr Lake Park Watch was forming several years ago, a construction company under NC state contract was building, or as we say, rehabilitating or a number of RV camping sites at Henderson Point while building a tenting campground.  The irony of that is amazing.  RV’s need fairly level sites for obvious reasons, but especially so their refrigerators and air conditioner units will work properly.

Here’s a few photos of what the State of North Carolina allowed the contractor to build from a design that most likely came from a non-camper within the Raleigh office of NC State Parks.


The five (5) photos below show recently developed campsites at Henderson Point executed by a contractor to the design specification of the Division of State Parks.  To a non-camper or the untrained eye, first glance might suggest what great campsites these are.  Stop there.  Now put out your awning from your RV or trailer and discover that there may not be enough room for a straight chair on the upper or lower level; forget a lounge chair.  So the camper’s awning ends up covering mostly, you guessed it, rocks.

All the food and meal preparations have to be taken up and down the steps and a number of these sites do not have a space big enough in the defined area for a tent or a tent and picnic canopy.

Several of the sites are not “slide friendly” which means that the increasingly popular slide extensions (units with 4 and 5 slides were seen this weekend 5-10-14 in 4 of the 7 SRA’s at Kerr Lake) may run into trouble with the electric/water post or a tree.


For the next rehab project the NC Division of State Parks used its design section, but merged into the process opinions and pertinent information from campers and from Kerr Lake Park Watch.  Though the process of using rangers, maintenance people, mechanics, sanitation workers and a variety of people to rehabilitate campsites may not be the most practical and fastest way to build campsites, the process at Hibernia where two of seven renovated campsites, 98 and 99 are now open, has proven to be beneficial to two groups.

Campers will instantly see the improvements favor from small campers to mega RV’s.  The second group to benefit are those parks professionals who gained a better understanding of their coworkers and their leaders and the ability to see the right way to build a 2014 campsite.

Everything the camper does on this site is on one level.  There’s plenty of room for the slides and lots of space for the RV awning to cover.  This site offers an enlarged fire and cooking ring, far away from the camper along with the lantern holder.

Now, if you are reading this and listening NC Division of State Parks, here’s what you need to finish off sites 98 and 99 correctly.  Screenings or powdery rock on the “living area” of a campsite are OK in thinking about tenters but (1) tent dwellers of today carry air mattresses and such, and (2) RV’ers don’t want to walk screenings into their trailers or motorhomes.  A suggested finish is pea gravel.  Next, please use timbers to separate gravel RV space from the living space.  It’s not a hazard as campers expect and appreciate it. And lastly, don’t forget to notch the corners to allow flood waters of Kerr Lake to recede but to keep rock of whatever size in the improved campsite.

And lastly, we at Kerr Lake Park Watch would like to thank NC Parks & Rec Operations Manager Mike Lambert, District Supervisor Dave Cook, Kerr Lake Superintendent Bryce Fleming and all those who have and are working on the Hibernia rehab project.  It is only a start, but it’s a good start.

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - Similar Circumstances/Situations at other Locations

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The Division of State Parks in North Carolina is reaching out to you who use state parks and more importantly to the members of Kerr Lake Park Watch, those of you who use the seven (7) SRA’s or State Recreation Areas of Kerr Lake, to tell the leaders of state parks what you want out of your parks.


  This is what the state parks link looks like at:

You really need to take the time to respond when the parks leaders in Raleigh ask for input.  We call this “citizen time” when you fulfill your citizen obligation to tell appointed and elected governmental representatives what you expect, want and/or need from their governmental entity.

It has long been said that the parks people in North Carolina, including Kerr Lake, is a silent majority.  Here is a perfect opportunity for that majority to speak out and have input on shaping the future of parks at Kerr Lake and in North Carolina.

The exact survey link is:

If you have the opportunity to list any ideas for the lake’s seven recreation areas on the North Carolina side, please send them to us at Kerr Lake Park Watch.  That email is

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - Similar Circumstances/Situations at other Locations

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Hearing the news that the EPA, the Virginia Department of Health and the NC Department of Health & Human Resources said, “It’s OK to play in Kerr Lake today” it seems like that the even the wildlife around the lake knows that something is up, maybe even better.  At Kerr Lake Park Watch, we think the news didn’t come a minute to soon, and for now, is something to soar about.

People ask us at KLPLW all the time is it tough to push for and to keep the public lands and venues around the lake.  The answer is “yes” but worth it for the campers, the fishermen, the boaters, the tubers and skiers, but even more so for an increasing population.

Two osprey soar above their nest as they have sent their little osprey out for their first winged lessons.

That little speck to the left of the pine and above the cloud is a baby Osprey of which four total young were seen and photographed at an undisclosed location.

“All these birds were not here when I was a young boy,” said KLPW’s public affairs person, Frank Timberlake.  “Now we commonly see Eagles, Osprey, Egrets and we saw a true Blue Heron while fishing the other day.  I don’t think the hawks and owls ever left but they are also more abundant.”

Reintroduction programs over the years by various governmental entities have repopulated supposedly native species to Kerr Lake.

And though they do not understand the words, like the two-legged, non-winged species, they are probably glad that someone has said that it is OK in Kerr Lake to play.

Because it is more adaptable to photos you can see a more complete photo album of the Osprey family at

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental

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Ask a simple question and finally, months later, you get an answer.  Kerr Lake Park Watch greatly acknowledges the efforts of Michael T Womack, Operations Project Manager at John H. Kerr Reservoir, in securing answers about the recreational effects of coal ash on the lake’s visitors.

Quietly and unobtrusively last week, the Virginia Department of Health and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services put out a joint statement or “fact sheet” declaring that direct exposure to coal ash can cause skin irritation.  The big news is that recreational contact with Kerr Lake water should cause no threat to humans with regard to the coal ash spill.  Regarding the eating of fish from Kerr Lake, there is important information as to why you should not consume certain species of fish from Kerr Lake.  That warning has little, if nothing, to do with coal ash. 

While the “Kerr Lake is OK” statements give our two million annual visitors to Kerr approval to swim, wade, fish, ski, tube and wallow in the water, the two departments use very guarded, certainly not emphatic approval, yet, it is what all of people have been clamoring for, an answer.

Late yesterday, the EPA issued an update stating that coal ash is currently not a threat to users of Kerr Lake.  The statement added, “B
eginning early April, the EPA started collecting sediment samples for Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) analysis. In this analytical method, samples are examined under a microscope by a trained analyst to visibly identify and count the types of material present (sand, clay, coal ash, etc.). The purpose of PLM analysis is to identify what percentage ash may be present in a sediment sample. Eleven locations were sampled from the Staunton River State Park and into the Kerr Reservoir. All PLM data collected to date in the Kerr Reservoir is non-detect for coal ash. 

Sampling of water quality, sediments and fish tissues will continue in Kerr Reservoir for as long as it is necessary to make sure the lake is safe for recreational uses. Collection of samples is being conducted by an interagency team that includes specialists with the VADEQ, NCDENR, FWS, and EPA.”

“I’ve been over a third of this lake by boat in the past five days and I see no difference, and I am glad that someone had the gumption to step up and give those of us who camp, picnic, boat and the like on Kerr Lake, the OK to enjoy it again this year.  Few people can count how high the economic impact of the 2 million plus visitors annually to Kerr,” commented KLPW’s spokesman Frank Timberlake.  “We had 7 no-show campers this weekend at the park we’re in and it surely wasn’t bad weather.  We’ve needed a definitive recreational use answer on coal ash for the last 60 days. A week later than the states but we’re glad to finally hear some positive news from the EPA.”

Here are the main questions and answers from VDH and NC DHHS:

Is exposure to coal ash harmful?

Coal ash is a gray, sand-like waste material that is made up of silica minerals and metals. Direct skin contact with coal ash, or with water and sediment containing coal ash, may cause skin irritation. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services continue to work with federal, state, and local agencies to evaluate water, sediment and fish sampling data and keep residents informed of any health risks.

Is it safe to swim and boat in Kerr Reservoir?

Sample results from the reservoir (for metals) are well below levels of concern for recreational use. However, if a swimmer comes in contact with what appears to be coal ash, health officials recommend thoroughly washing off with soap and water. Illness may occur from other lake water contaminants not associated with coal ash, such as bacteria and viruses. For that reason, it is important that swimmers always avoid swallowing any untreated or unfiltered lake water. If you swallow lake water and become ill, please seek medical attention.

Is it safe to eat fish from Kerr Reservoir?

Due to historical activities not associated with the coal ash release, VDH has an existing fish consumption advisory for the Kerr Reservoir and it includes the Dan River and parts of the Hyco and Banister rivers. Certain species of fish in these waters contain elevated levels of methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Results of the analysis of fish tissue samples collected from the Dan River after the coal ash release do not warrant additional fish consumption advisories. For more information, visit: PublicHealthToxicology/Advisories/.

Kerr Lake in North Carolina is covered by a statewide ban on eating largemouth bass due to methylmercury. For more information on fish consumption advisories in North Carolina visit:

What should I do if I see dry coal ash on the banks of Kerr Reservoir?

If you see what appears to be ash on the banks of the reservoir, call Southside Health District at 434-738-6815 with site directions. Your call will be routed appropriately. You may also email the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at If you come in contact with what appears to be ash, wash off with soap and water. Do not kick the ash up and/or do not try to remove it yourself.

Coal ash, which is said to be more radioactive than uranium, is the waste material left after coal is burned and it contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and over a dozen other heavy metals, many of them toxic. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers has been seeking information on recreational safety of Kerr Lake waters as well as Kerr Lake Park Watch and other groups.  The EPA says it will continue ongoing monitoring of Kerr Lake as well as the Dan River.


Posted in: KLPW - Camping Safety, KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - WATER RELATED, KLPW - Water Safety

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COAL ASH? Do we know the current safety level
of Kerr Lake? No! Because NO PUBLIC AGENCY will speak
to that. So we’ll head on to the picnic areas and campsites…because it’s time

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! The above white pig, smeared
with COAL ASH, apparently has not been slowed in the least by the COAL ASH.  

But this is a pig eating ice cream at a picnic
table, and while there could be something “anecdotal” about
the illustration, the fact remains that the public, that’s you, should demand
from one or more public agencies responsible for Kerr Lake, a current status of
the lake’s well being with regard to coal ash.

There may not be any risk with public
interaction with the lake’s waters, but it’s the beginning of May and that
means tourists and it means skiing, tubing, swimming, wading, fishing and the

A pig doesn’t know better.  The
bureaucrats are banking on the fact that the public is like the pig, that the
public will want to recreate more than it wants to know.

From the beginning of this travesty, Kerr
Lake Park Watch
 has been focused on getting the answer to this
question:  “Is the water of Kerr Lake safe for human recreational
interaction?”  So the bureaucrats hide behind the publicly owned, but
closed doors with their “wait and see what the damage is” mentality,
while lake visitors gear up for another season in the water.  It’s like
getting a traffic light put up at a deadly intersection; some have to die to
get the traffic light installed.

We actually don’t believe that coal ash is a
huge recreational problem, but if that’s true, why won’t NC DENR, VA DEQ,
the EPA or the Corps of Engineers tell us? Why did NC DENR force a
respectable public servant like Division of Water Resources head, Tom Reeder,
to not only withdraw his statement that coal ash is in Kerr Lake, but to now
say that coal ash is not in Kerr Lake?

So what if the pig dies? We still think that
the majority of Kerr Lake visitors want to know and there’s over two
 of them!

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - WATER RELATED, KLPW - Water Safety

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Update Story Posted by on The Indy onThu, May 1, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Last week Tom Reeder, the director of DENR’s Division of Water Resources, emphatically told lawmakers that no coal ash deposits have been found to date in Kerr Lake.

“There’s been a lot of anecdotal reporting about ash in Kerr Lake,” Reeder said at an Environmental Review Commission meeting.

He added that the EPA sampled 20 different sites at Kerr Lake and analysis of the sampling did not show the presence of coal ash.

But some of that “anecdotal reporting” Reeder spoke about came from Reeder himself.

On April 17, Reeder said in a T.V. interview with Time Warner Cable News that DENR had found trace amounts of coal ash in Kerr Lake.

The network reported that following the interview, a DENR public information officer sent an email contradicting Reeder’s statements in the interview.

The following Tuesday, Reeder himself backtracked before the Environmental Review Commission.

“People have seen grey material in Kerr Lake, people have seen grey water entering Kerr Lake, things like that,” Reeder told lawmakers. “Everything that has been tested to date that has been taken from Kerr Lake has turned up negative for coal ash.”

Bridget Whelan, the communications director for the North Carolina Conservation Network, said the issue remains a point of confusion.

“DENR either misspoke when they said coal ash was confirmed there or they are deliberating,” Whelan said. “The community up there around Kerr Lake is confused and concerned.”

The lake shares a border with Virginia and that state’s Department of Environmental Quality’s response is similarly confusing. 

“In the days following coal ash spill, coal ash was observed in the lake’s waters,” said Bill Hayden, a public affairs officer with the Department. “It was only observed and not measured. Testing has been done in the past week or so and there has been nothing to show that there is coal ash in the water.”

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - WATER RELATED, KLPW - Water Safety

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