'Normal' lake woos holiday visitors (The Commonwealth Journal)
By Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal The Commonwealth Journal Mon May 26,

Just like old times! Crowded camping spots smothered with hazy blue smoke emitted a hungry smell from grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and an occasional steak. Parking spaces near boat-launching ramps were occupied bumper to bumper with empty trailers towed by four-wheel-drives. Boats plied Lake Cumberland, a seemingly expansive sea. Sounds of laughter permeated the still of a scenic waterscape. It is the first holiday of summer! Lake Cumberland is normal again! “The old coves are back,” said Dale Winters, who with wife Becky and daughter Gracyn had been perusing the lake’s 1,250 miles of shoreline in their Sundancer yacht “ ... for a long, long Memorial Day weekend ... since Thursday.” They are from Ohio, part of the Ohio Navy returning to its favorite mooring place. The Winters’ family is familiar with Lake Cumberland; they’ve been here before.

For the first time in seven summers, the lake, an economic engine that drives the tourism industry in a 10-county area, is full to the brim. The water level on Memorial Day was lapping at the timber line. “It’s where we want the lake to be,” agreed Tom Hale, reservoir manager. Paul Haddix from Georgetown (Ky.) was here for the first time in a decade and a half. “I’ve been going to Cave Run Lake (near Morehead) for the past 15 years,” said Haddix. He did not see Lake Cumberland during the seven years the water was held about 40 feet below normal to facilitate repairs to Wolf Creek Dam. “I heard about the problems at Lake Cumberland,” said Haddix, “ But I wanted to see different trees, different banks and different boats,” Haddix said of his decision to return to Lake Cumberland. “It’s (lake) really nice,” he remarked. Haddix found hospitality of Lake Cumberland Country is still alive after a cooler full of food dropped from his boat as he left Fishing Creek Recreation Area. A compassionate volunteer at the camping site brought the lost cooler to camp headquarters for Haddix, who returned moments later. “You tell ‘em this is the cleanest, best-kept campsite on the lake,” Fishing Creek park attendant Sharon Haynes urged a reporter. “We’re completely full,” Haynes said of the camping site which until this year was without water because of the low level of Lake Cumberland. There wasn’t elbow room among campers on Memorial Day at Pulaski County Park near Nancy. A 15 mph speed limit in designated camping areas was totally appropriate because children were playing in the narrow roads that wind through recreational areas at the park.

A budding romance at nearby Lee’s Ford Resort Marina was seed that brought a group of 19 adults and 22 children “ ... just a bunch of good friends” from Versailles, to a Memorial Day weekend getaway at Pulaski County Park. Zach Gates and Christy Goff Gates met at the marina on the Fishing Creek arm of Lake Cumberland when they both were 16, according to a story told by a Versailles camper. “The Gateses are married now; they have lots of friends, and they recommended Lake Cumberland and Pulaski County Park as the place to spend this Memorial Day weekend. “It’s a perfect trip,” said Rob Hodge, a member of the Versailles camping group. “We’d heard about Lake Cumberland, and the convenience of the boat ramp (for campers at the county park) makes it a perfect place. “It’s an awesome thing to see,” Hodge said of Lake Cumberland. “I love to fish and hunt ... absolutely, we’ll be back,” Hodge promised. “Hopefully, we can come back again this summer.” A full lake is a shot in the arm for business. Ken Patel was busy at the cash register at R/C Hobbies Water Sports, a Shell service station just north of the entrance to General Burnside Island State Park. Cars, trucks and boats were lined up outside at the gasoline pumps . “Traffic (and business) has really picked up since the lake is full,” said Patel, manager of the store. Despite the hustle and bustle of the holiday, normalcy of everyday life on Lake Cumberland was evident. There is always a place for quiet times. Donald Whitis, 1124 Fawn Run, Somerset, was bringing his fishing boat out of the water at Lakeview boating ramp. He’s had better fishing days, but things weren’t all bad. “I’ve caught a few walleyes,” he said. Grinning, as an afterthought: “Don’t give away my fishing spots,” he cautioned a reporter. Lake Cumberland, nosing into the majestic foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, has plenty of room for remoteness, even during a busy holiday. Whitis knows the lake like the back of his hand. “I’ve fished here all my life ... I’m really enjoying my retirement,” he said. Bill Mardis is the editor emeritus of the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at: bmardis@somerset-kentucky.com.

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