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Laurel Park wins grant for Rhododendron Lake work

Conceptual rendering of the site with the sediment bay and re-opened stream path in and out of the lake. Conceptual rendering of the site with the sediment bay and re-opened stream path in and out of the lake.

LAUREL PARK — The Town of Laurel Park has received a $63,550 grant to improve Rhododendron Lake Park.

The grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund will pay for work to remove sections of an underground culvert pipe that feeds and empties out of the lake and create a sedimentation pond to capture sediment before it reaches the lake.
Restoration of the lake's shoreline will creates a buffer area and filter for the lake while providing a habitat for native plant and bird species. Removal of lake debris and the renovation to a bottom outflow device will improve oxygen levels and stabilize water temperatures within the aquatic system, and should enhance water quality to a level that would support native trout populations.

To receive the grant, the town committed $60,000 cash over two fiscal years as a match plus $8,000 in in-kind land and labor value.
In 2009 the Town Board acquired the property and developed a three-phase plan to create a 10-acre nature park encompassing the old lakebed property and recently purchased adjacent parcels. Built in 1909, Laurel Park Lake was created by the building of an earthen dam on an unnamed headwaters stream for Wash Creek. The dam was removed in the early 1980s, leaving the approximately 1 acre lake. Many Henderson County residents have fond memories of swimming and sunbathing at Laurel Park Lake.
In 2013, contractors and volunteers began the first phase of a three-phase multi-year project to create Rhododendron Lake Park from the old lakebed.
The primary goal of Phase I was to realign the channeled stream, which was causing erosion under Lake Drive. Starting at the south end of Lake Drive near the Villas, the stream now flows on a northerly path through the park, cascading over newly created falls at the north end before continuing to Wash Creek at Laurel Green Park. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed its first-year inspection of the project, including an evaluation of the stream banks for any signs of erosion as well as the overall health of the stream in terms of aquatic development.
The evaluation also gauged how well the plant growth is progressing along the stream and inside the buffer area. The Corps found no significant issues with the stream project; rather the assessment found that the project is in great shape and moving ahead as required, the town said in a news release.
The Corps will monitor the project for another four years, at which time the town will assume maintenance and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy will take over the monitoring.
The CWMTF grant will allow the town to remove the silt from the lake, create riparian buffers adjacent to the stream and lake, acquire a key parcel adjacent to the existing park and establish educational programs. Construction on the two-year project is expected to begin in 2015.
Rhododendron Lake Park improvements have also been possible only with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Henderson County's legislative delegation and the Laurel Park Parks & Greenway Board, the town said.
Laurel Park is seeking additional public donations that will help fund walking trails and other park amenities to be located around the lake. Those interested in learning more or donating for future plantings, trail construction or park amenities may contact Town Hall at 693-4840.