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CAMPSITE GRAVEL REPLENISHMENT PROGRAM DELAYED BY HIGH WATER IS NOW UNDER WAY AT NC KERR LAKE STATE RECREATION AREAS

The water went up the first of May to 313 ft and down, then to 311 ft and down, then to 307.5 ft in June (above sea level, normal is 300 ft) and now it’s back close to normal. NC Parks maintenance crews at Kerr have pulled the electric boxes on campsites, put them back, pulled them again and so on…three times this Spring.

NC Maintenance Head Chris Curl, describing how pushed he, his crew and others have been, simply said, “Rolling.” Office staff at Kerr spent their time and overtime answering calls from campers wanting to know if they could come to their campsite or was it flooded; park staff also called out. Reserve America, which takes $3 a night for reservations failed miserably to call campers during the three episodes, but they kept the money (another story, another time). Campers calling Reserve America often were told that RA didn’t know the status of the flooding..

Kerr Lake Park Watch last August gave NC State Park officials from Raleigh a tour of all seven parks and Steele Creek Marina. That effort, having the brass see all the nooks and crannies, is helping. Firewood boxes and recycling bins are showing up and so is both campsite driveway gravel and fine gravel for picnic/tent pads.

Frank Timberlake, Lead Public Affairs for Kerr Lake Park Watch, got the see crews firsthand spreading the welcome refurbishment to some popular sites. Pictured below is maintenance crew member Gary Quinitchette bringing gravel on the backhoe, west side maintenance lead John Abbott, Jr. spreading gravel with the Bobcat and a little fine-tuning raking from new ranger Kyle Whitson.

 

“No other state parks crews, maybe some of the mountains come close, but no other group has to contend with the high water, the low water, up and down, pull electric boxes, put them back, the wind and the wrath of Kerr Lake, plus all the regular maintenance and operational duties,” said Timberlake. “I’ll put these guys and gals up against any other team in the state! Sure, we have wants, needs and problems at the seven recreation areas, but these maintenance and ops people do a heck of job with what they’re given! I thank them every chance I get and you should do so, “concluded Timberlake.

Timberlake and the rest of the Kerr Lake Park Watch leadership are eagerly awaiting from Raleigh the results of the recent needs and improvements survey. They plan to form a definitive improvements list after seeing survey results.

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas

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IT’S SPRING & THAT MEANS KERR LAKE RISES – FOR UPDATES VISIT OUR FACEBOOK PAGE.

Here we were almost showing up in the drought column in Piedmont North Carolina and Southside Virginia, then came the rains.  It’s Spring and especially during April, the showers that bring the flowers usually show up.

Kerr Lake is now over 306.5 feet above MSL (Mean Sea Level – 300′ is normal full pool) and rising, expecting to crest between 309 and 310 feet.  A number of U S Army Corps of Engineers and North Carolina State Recreation Areas are either closed or partially closed due to the high waters.  We have had no information out of DCR or the Virginia State Parks.

We are currently posting information about parks and public use areas on Kerr Lake as the information is provided to us.  As the list of boat ramps and campsites inundated by water is constantly changing we will continue to post that information on our Facebook page which you can find at www.facebook.com/kerrlakeparkwatch.

If you have camping reservations from now through the weekend, Kerr Lake Park Watch suggests that you contact the reservation system for the public park entity as individual state and federal rangers may not have the latest information.

Kerr Lake Park Watch has asked the U S Army Corps of Engineers if the QRR Plan (Quasi-Run-of-River) adopted last year will hasten the departure of the flood waters.

In the final analysis, Kerr Lake is a reservoir, not a lake.  And this, well, it’s April and the showers.  You know that story.

Photo of Nutbush area 4/26/17 by Kelly N. Blake

Posted in: KLPW - Camping Safety, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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FIRST OF ITS KIND SPLASH PARK IS COMING TO KERR LAKE – Virginia Governor Announces Park Improvement at Occoneechee Ground-Breaking

The 64-year old John H. Kerr Reservoir has seen a lot of changes and improvements during its lifetime.  A lot of those changes have been positive and directly made for the public’s use and enjoyment; among them campgrounds, boat ramps, picnic areas, hiking trails, playgrounds, restrooms and more.

At a ground-breaking ceremony earlier this week at Occoneechee State Park in Clarksville, Virginia a new, attraction-type of venue was unveiled, that is a “splash park” to be built within the park.  A splash park is described as a recreation area for water play that has little or no standing water. This is said to eliminate the need for lifeguards or other supervision, as there is minor risk of drowning.  Designers and project managers for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Richmond design firm are calling Occoneechee’s new wet spot a “splashground.”

About 35 people attended the “by invitation only” event earlier this week at Occoneechee with most of those being public officials from DCR , the US Army Corps of Engineers (which has approved the project), Occoneechee and area park staff and a handful of local officials.

The main attraction was the combining of the ground-breaking and an official visit to Occoneechee by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who upon election, promised to visit every state park in the Commonwealth.  Occoneechee State Park was park to visit and the Governor made his promise become truth.  Twice the same day the governor visited the other Kerr Lake Virginia State Park, Staunton River.  While at Occoneechee, the affable McAuliffe commented to Kerr Lake Park Watch’s Frank Timberlake that Occoneechee is a “gem” of a park with the added value of being on Kerr Lake.  He was surprised to learn that Timberlake has been visiting and/or camping at Occoneechee for over 50 years. McAuliffe asked Timberlake what has drawn him to the park and the Governor received a long, positive list.

McAuliffe was accompanied by some staff and security people, but he was also accompanied by some family members, including his niece shown below as they discussed the differences in the Kerr Lake parks from other Virginia State Parks.  She told Kerr Lake Park Watch that she particularly liked the fact that a major percentage of the water going out into the splashground will be recaptured and recycled through the system.  Kerr Lake Park Watch attempted to get more information on the reclamation system and its advantages from DCR but has received nothing by posting time.

Earlier this year commenting on the economic impact that Virginia State Parks make to the Commonwealth’s coffers, Governor McAuliffe said that the park system brought in visitor fees of $224 million in 2016.  Officials at the ceremony commented that Occoneechee State Park had revenues over $4 million last year.  The new “Splashground” will undoubtedly bring in more revenues as it will be a fee-based activity.  DCR officials anticipate that the Occoneechee splash park charge will be between $5 and $8 per person.   Park officials said that there’s a comparable sprayground at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, and the price there ranges from $5-$8, depending on the age and the day, with children under three getting free admission.  Projections on costs for the project that will take about a year to complete are between $1.5 million and $1.8 million.  The new splashground is expected to open Spring 2018.

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

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IT’S PUBLIC INPUT TIME! SURVEY ON IMPROVEMENTS AT NC KERR LAKE PARKS IS OUT – YOUR TURN TO FILL IT OUT

The opportunity for the public to have input into the improvement process for Kerr Lake State Recreation Areas funded by $3.75 million from the Connect NC Bond is here.  The North Carolina Division of State Parks & Recreation has launched a 30-day survey on its website that will survey people seeking their priorities for improvements and facilities additions at the seven SRA’s on the North Carolina side of Kerr Lake.  Those parks include, Kimball Point, County Line, Bullocksville, Satterwhite Point, Nutbush, Hibernia and Henderson Point.

The direct link to the Kerr Lake State Recreation Area survey is:  NC State Parks Survey on Kerr Lake Recreation Area Improvements.

Kerr Lake Park Watch leaders took state park top administrators on a daylong tour of all seven state recreation areas late last season.  The idea was to give them a firsthand view of the parks, showing them both problems and opportunities, assets and liabilities in each park.  While meeting various park staff along the way, touring all the parks from the state division were Adrian O’Neal, Chief of Operations for the NC Division of State Parks & Recreation, Jerry Howerton, Chief of Maintenance, Bryce Fleming, Kerr Lake SRA Superintendent and Chris Curl, Kerr Lake Chief of Maintenance.   Kerr Lake Lead for Public Affairs, Frank Timberlake, led the around-the-lake trip.  At the conclusion, Kerr Lake Park Watch leaders Linda Timberlake and Lisa and Joel Bailey topped off the day with dinner and dessert.

KLPW’s Frank Timberlake photos NC State Park officials discussing the merits of a Premium RV loop at Henderson Point.

One of the opportunities for development was at Henderson Point where some of the most beautiful property on the lake is developed for tents only, but includes a $600,000+/- bath and shower facility.  Kerr Lake Park Watch has recommended that a portion of that park that is directly out in the sun most of the day, be developed into the first PREMIUM RV sites on Kerr Lake, or maybe in the State of North Carolina.  The flat, oversized sites, in KLPW’s concept, would offer water and 50 AMP electric service, wifi and a designated  beach area.  Now the area is unfrequented by many tent campers in the summer due to no available electricity or shade.  Sewer at Kerr Lake campgrounds below the 320 foot line above sea level is not possible since all parks around Kerr Lake are actually on federal land.

Kerr Lake Park Watch’s improvement list includes at the top:

  1. Improved bathhouses, especially at Nutbush and Kimball Point and possibly Satterwhite Point
  2. Increased water and electric sites, possibly on both sides of the lake.  For example, with a new bathhouse in Area 1 of Hibernia, that area is now prime for 25 to 30 water and electric sites.
  3. Develop a Premium RV loop, such as the Henderson Point site

“We asked the State of North Carolina in a loud and determined manner for a method to offer public input from us, the users of Kerr Lake, as to how to spend the money from the Connect NC bond,” commented Timberlake, “Now it’s the job of all of us who love those parks on the lake to voice our opinions and use the forum that the Division of State Parks has provided.  It’s like the old adage, if you don’t vote, don’t complain.  This is our window of opportunity!  Seize it.”

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas

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MAKE YOUR WANT LIST FOR THE NORTH CAROLINA PARKS ON KERR LAKE KNOWN…MAKE WAVES!

IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO MAKE WAVES! If you visit any of the seven (7) Kerr Lake State Recreation Areas on the North Carolina side of Kerr Lake then it’s time for your opinion.

The Division of NC State Parks and Recreation is putting together a survey on how best to spend the $3.75 million from the earlier-passed Connect NC Bond referendum.  When that survey is ready, we will share the link for your convenience.

Those of us in Kerr Lake Park Watch want to see some improvements/replacements of bath facilities like at Nutbush and Kimball Point.

We also would like to see some of the pressure for electric sites removed by adding electric and water sites to Henderson Point and Hibernia.

We have a detailed story coming about the late last summer visit of NC State Park top officials and some ideas that are emerging. But you, the park user, the visitor, should now express your ideas.

It’s a good time to put forth your ideas as NC State Parks will spend $3.75 million on something at Kerr Lake.  You can wait for the link to the survey or you can write now on FB or send your opinions to info@kerrlakeparkwatch.org.

You know the needs…now is the time to share them.  Make your wave!

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas

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SNOWMAN VISITS KERR LAKE – PARKS CLOSED OR OPEN ARE A BIT FROSTY – HOW ABOUT THE FUTURE?

The hearty and warm thanks of Kerr Lake Park Watch go to brave soul and park lover Cindy R Gustafson who braved this weekend’s winter weather to share with you some snow-covered scenes on Kerr Lake.  The picture below at the entrance to Hibernia State Recreation Area is a far cry from days of hot dogs cooked on a fire, roasted marshmallows and playing in the water’s edge.

Winter weather with low temps hit virtually all of Kerr Lake country this weekend and as you can see from Ms. Gustafon’s next shot, no one was launching boats at the Hibernia Wildlife ramp.  It was just a little to snowy!

Though things are frosty at the parks around the lake, we are now waiting to see if changes in the Division of State Parks in North Carolina are going to be warm or frosty.

Particularly at the end of last season, great inroads were made when NC parks officials from Raleigh and Kerr Lake Park Watch leaders toured every one of the seven state recreation areas and a leased marina to learn about the problems, the challenges and the opportunities of the recreation areas which differ greatly from regular state parks.

At the top of the list, is how to spend the $3 million plus from the recent Connect NC bond on Kerr Lake.  The change of a governor, means the change at the secretary level of a governing department and at the level of Division, meaning a new parks director.

Kerr Lake Park Watch will be keeping an eye on those positions and trying to ascertain where Kerr Lake stands with the new leadership.

In the meantime, as an interested supporter of Kerr Lake, you may want to send us your ideas on improvements that we can put into this year’s priority list.

With positive steps, correct information, good input, maybe we can all avoid any more snow jobs, and yes, that is a clichéd pun.

Until warmer days…

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas

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KERR LAKE AREA – Recycle Your Christmas Trees into Fish Habitat!

BOYDTON, Va. – Once again the US Army Corps of Engineers at John H. Kerr Reservoir will be accepting used live Christmas Trees until January 31st to be recycled into fish habitat.  Designated drop off areas will be located at four Corps boat ramps/day use areas located throughout Mecklenburg County.  The four areas that will be accepting trees this year are:

  • Visitor Assistance Center by North Bend Park at Kerr Dam
  • Rudds Creek Day Use Area, on Highway 58 just outside Boydton
  • Longwood Boat Ramp, on Highway 15 South, outside of Clarksville
  • Bluestone Boat Ramp, on Highway 15 North, outside of ClarksvilleEach of these areas will have designated marked off drop locations.

At the end of January the Corps will take the donated trees, bind them together, and sink them for fish habitat. Some parks already have a marked fishing reef buoy nearby which is where the trees will be placed. “These trees are some of the best forms of underwater structure. Crappie, bass, bluegills and other fish will often use the trees to congregate in and around,” according to Billy Hoffer, Conservation Biologist at Kerr Reservoir.

Outdoor Family Choosing Christmas Tree Together

Outdoor Family Choosing Christmas Tree Together

Please drop off your Christmas tree, free of decorations, to one of the four locations above so we can keep trees out of our landfills and improve our fishery here at John H. Kerr Reservoir.  Also, please remember that it is a violation to place structures in the lake without permission.

If you have any questions or concerns about this project feel free to call Billy Hoffer, Conservation Biologist at the Corps Visitor Assistance Center at (434) 738-6143 extension 6159.

Kerr Lake Park Watch adds, take the kids along to the parks when you discard the Christmas tree.  It’s a great time to take a brisk walk around the park and the area!

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

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KERR LAKE SURE LOOKS NICE RIGHT BEFORE THE BIG WEEKEND – USE CAUTION OUT THERE

Kerr Lake Park Watch received this Nutbush area photo taken earlier today by Kerr Lake Park Watch member Kathy B.  The morning clouds eventually moved over for some last of the summer sunshine.

0829160714_HDR (2) nutbush 8-31-16 kathy biset

Be safe, especially this coming Labor Day weekend when a lot more boaters will be out; and so will law enforcement.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and its partners conclude their “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign this Labor Day weekend. Starting Friday, drivers and boat operators across North Carolina may encounter sobriety checkpoints or increased enforcement patrols to help deter impaired operation of vehicles and vessels.

The annual multi-agency initiative works to ensure everyone can travel safely on the road and on the water during summer holidays. In North Carolina, a driver or boat operator with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds .08 is subject to arrest.

“We want to remind everyone to be careful while they enjoy the holiday weekend,” said Lt. Sam Craft with the Wildlife Commission. “Impaired driving has dangerous consequences for motorists and boaters alike. No one wants to end their summer with an arrest or an accident.”

The “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign is coordinated by the Wildlife Commission, State Highway Patrol and Forensic Tests for Alcohol, and supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard and local police and sheriff’s offices, along with participating non-governmental organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Especially if you’re visiting the North Carolina recreational area, or the Virginia side too, take time to stop and thank a ranger or park worker.  It’s the 100th anniversary of NC State Parks and never a better time to be thankful then when using the resources.

State_Park_logo

Happy Labor Day from Kerr Lake Park Watch!

 

Posted in: KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - Water Safety

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CORPS OF ENGINEERS APPROVES & ENACTS QRR PLAN FOR KERR LAKE

Groups that support best use practices for Kerr Lake and the Roanoke River Basin are smiling this week as the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced the approval of the QRR Plan that will allow more responsive actions for handling future huge weather and subsequent flood events.  Stakeholders, representing groups like the RRBA (Roanoke River Basin Association), Kerr Lake Park Watch, Vance County Tourism Development Authority and others, like the idea of Kerr Lake being kept at a more consistent level by the QRR or Quasi-Run-of-River Plan. And downstream, supporters want the water to come through at a faster pace and move on out quicker.

Kerr Lake Dam - Lower side USACE PIC

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Photo

With recent heavy weather/rain systems threatening this past Memorial Day’s recreational activities like camping in the parks around Kerr Lake, several groups pushed to have special action taken by the commanding colonel of the Corps, but such action is rare and it did not happen. From the viewpoint of Kerr Lake Park Watch and tourism supporters, when park users can’t get to or on a site due to high water, particularly around a holiday, that is difficult in a number of ways.

During the Memorial Day holiday such an occurrence happened when some campers were moved and others were sent home. Although most of the time there are an abundance of camping sites that number about 1,200 all the way around the lake, there is a critical shortage of electric and water sites which nearly all campers want nowadays.   Kerr Lake Park Watch’s Frank Timberlake was one of those who had to be moved during the Memorial Day holiday, “We all were eagerly awaiting some intervention for larger water releases by Wilmington (Corps) or both the approval and adoption of the QRR and neither happened then. So I am personally watching the water creep to within 20 feet or so of my camper after I had already moved once.”

Switching gears from camper to parks promoter, Timberlake said of the Corps’ adoption of QRR, “This is monumental and one of the most positive flood operational changes that I’ve ever witnessed for the John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir. We realize how many different and differently postured stakeholders are involved in the day-to-day operations of Kerr; there are flood managers, power companies, agricultural and forestry entities, fish and wildlife representatives and groups that specifically care about the parks around the lake and groups that are focused on the river(s). The Corps has listened. The Corps has responded. And many, many have won. Our joy is quieted a bit by the recent passing of Andrew Lester, the Executive Director of the RRBA who pushed diligently for this and other good things for the Roanoke River basin. I wish he could have seen it enacted.”

In a statement, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers outlined the specifics of QRR or moving the water through the system at a more realistic amount and pace, “Previously during really wet times, like we experienced this past winter, long periods of 20,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) flood releases from Kerr and Roanoke Rapids Dams were possible,” said Wilmington District Water Management Chief, Tony Young. “Prolonged 20,000 CFS flood releases were causing harm to the lower Roanoke floodplain forest ecosystem due to long periods of standing water, as well as impacting timber operations and recreational access to the floodplain. Only when Kerr lake levels were extremely high could flood releases be further increased to 25,000 and eventually 35,000 CFS, but this did not occur very often.”

Young added that under the QRR plan, flood releases will more closely mimic the natural inflows coming into Kerr on a weekly basis and may be increased above 20,000 CFS on a more frequent basis-up to a maximum of 35,000 CFS for larger storm events. While these higher releases will inundate a larger portion of the floodplain, these higher releases will be made for a much shorter period of time, allowing the river downstream of Roanoke Rapids to return to normal much sooner. In addition, lake levels in Kerr may not get as high and will return to normal levels sooner, allowing Kerr to better handle the next flood event and reducing recreation impacts.

Timberlake added that wildlife downstream was featured in discussions but Kerr Lake wildlife factors in as well, “We saw firsthand Memorial Day weekend that when we lost campsites to water at 308 (feet above mean sea level – 300’ is normal full pool) we also saw a huge amount of displaced wildlife: deer in unexpected places, more raccoon, fox and snake sightings. But we’re all going to take a big step forward now with QRR as the water will be more manageable, so shall the shores and the parks on them, thus making Kerr Lake Park Watch a group of happy campers.”

 

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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VOLUNTEER DAY FOR HIBERNIA MAY 21HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO THE WEATHER FORECAST

The headquarters for Kerr Lake State Recreation Areas at Satterwhite Point has announced a Volunteer Day at Hibernia on Saturday, May 21st.  “We know it’s a little late and short notice, but there are a lot of mitigating circumstances with staff moves and some maintenance projects,” said Assistant Superintendent Lee Amos, “But we are hoping that members of Kerr Lake Park Watch and the general public will turn out for a while to help and that the weather will cooperate.”

Projects on tap for this year’s Volunteer Day include putting up some signs on some trails, recently refurbished by the maintenance and park personnel.  Several display cases that will house, for educational and informational purposes, both historical and environmental items and info have been built along some of Hibernia’s trails.

Park staff also hopes to work on the Hargrove family cemetery in which is buried the original owner and builder of Hibernia.  The cemetery needs some attention along with metal fence painting.  Real go-getters can bring limb trimming equipment and help push back limbs from campsites.  Last year’s successful Volunteer Day prompted a video about how a few can do much:  KLPW 2015 VOL DAY at HIBERNIA

Volunteers are badly needed, particularly with a short invite window.  Volunteers are asked to be at the picnic shelter between Area 2 and Area 3 on the main park road at 9:00 AM, Saturday, May 21.  For more information, contact the park office at (252) 438-7791.

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - Park Entertainment/Events

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