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Boat-ramp Access a Critical Problem at Lanier

With access to the lake becoming extremely limited, Lanier anglers and businesses are taking matters into their own hands.

GON Staff | December 21, 2007

Because of the persistent drought, fishermen across the state have been watching in frustration for months as the boat ramps they use to access their local reservoirs have dried up one by one. Lack of access has closed Carters Lake ramps to boats all together, and a handful of smaller reservoirs are inaccessible, as well.

At Lake Lanier, the boat-ramp issue has become critical. At presstime, there were only two public ramps left that offered access to the public, and both of those were already at levels below the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ minimum operational levels. The ramps at Shoal Creek and Tidwell were open on a day-to-day basis, and the corps was standing by ready to close them once they were no longer safe to use.

With their fishing and in some cases their livelihoods in danger of drying up, Lanier fishing guides, bait stores and anglers got together with the corps and decided to do something before all access to the lake was high and dry. At a Dec. 5 meeting, the corps provided options for interested parties, with technical advice from WRD. In at least one case, the boat-ramp extensions have already begun.

Private partners, counties and the corps have come together in at least the planning stages for ramp-extension projects at East Bank, Van Pugh North, Clarks Bridge and Charleston Park —all suitable ramps for extension with enough parking for at least 50 anglers. At East Bank, Capt. Quin Frank spearheaded a group of partners who paid for concrete to have four lanes extended. Those extensions had already been poured at presstime, but only down to the water line, which doesn’t help the immediate access situation. An option discussed at the meeting to provide at least temporary access was the purchase of airport landing mats. That option is still being explored, according to Michael Lapina with the corps.

More dramatic measures are in the works for the Charleston Park ramp, measures that would provide immediate access once the construction is completed. Candy Hammond, owner of Hammond’s Fishing & Boat Storage in Forsyth County, has collected pledges of more than $14,000 to provide an immediate and permanent fix at Charleston Park. She needs just $4,000 more to extend the ramp to a length that would be useable even if the lake level drops by another 10 feet.

“The lake could go down 10 more feet, and you could still put a boat in the water,” she said. “But we need to get started right away because it takes three to four weeks once it gets started.”

All the money she is raising is for the rental of a portable cofferdam from Portadam, an Atlanta company. The cost is $18,694, and the cofferdam will be erected in the cove at Charleston Park. The water-tight barrier would allow for the water to be pumped out of the cove, leaving a dry lake bed for extension of the boat ramp. Forsyth County has agreed to pay for the concrete and construction costs, which will likely cost another $8,000 to $9,000.

Anyone who has been to either Tidwell or Shoal Creek has noticed that lines to get in and out of the lake are forming, and parking is a problem. One of the benefits at Charleston Park will be ample parking, Candy said. The Charleston Park ramps are just across the lake from the Six Mile ramps. There are 48 spaces at Charleston Park and 30 at Six Mile. Once the spaces are filled at Charleston Park, boaters can put their boats in at Charleston Park and run across the lake to pick up a buddy who parks the trailer and vehicle at Six Mile.

Candy is still collecting pledges for this project. She can be contacted for pledges by e-mail at [email protected]

Another option for tournament directors is use of the private ramp at Holiday Marina, which still has more than 10 feet of ramp in the water. Vernita Loveridge of Holiday Marina said she will allow tournaments, by reservation, to use the ramp for a fee of $10 per boat.

“You should see the ramp. It’s a three-ring circus back there,” she said. “But I’m trying to do what I can to help.”

Again, parking is an issue, but the corps has agreed to let boaters park their trailers at nearby Big Creek Park after they put in at Holiday. To make a reservation, have your special-event permit from the corps ready and call Jules at (770) 945-7201.

The corps’ projections call for lake levels that would put both Tidwell and Shoal Creek high and dry by or before Jan.18.

“With the rain we’ve seen, we’ve been able to reduce our outflows, and maybe if we get some more rain the lake will stabilize and we won’t have to close those ramps,” Michael said.

While everyone should still go ahead and do that rain dance, hopefully the efforts of the businesses and communities around Lanier will keep the lake from closing to public access all together.

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