By DeeAnna Haney, The Mountaineer
March 7, 2014
Those who enjoy fishing at Lake Junaluska will have a new place to cast a line in May when a new fishing pier is expected to be completed.
The pier, which is already under construction to the left of the swimming pool, will extend about 40 feet beyond the pillar at the end of the pool deck. At the end of the pier will be a 10-foot wide open area for fishing.
It's all a part of the Lake's mission to better engage more people with the lake itself, which was a shift in vision made in 2011, said Jack Ewing, executive director of Lake Junaluska.
"The lake is our greatest asset and we need to take advantage of that asset," Ewing said. "We need to use it."
Though there are other areas where people can stand above the lake, this pier will be just inches above the water rather than feet.
"People can walk across the foot bridge, but they're still 8 to 10 feet above the lake," Ewing said, adding that the pier will be 8 inches above the water.
There will also be an area for kayak and canoe storage, which will be offered at a nominal fee, and another boat launching area in addition to at least two other areas already on the lake.
Ewing envisions a family-friendly area — a place where a grandfather can bring his grandchildren on their first fishing adventures.
"This is to give people a chance to wet a line that might have never fished before," he said.
This project is one of many Lake leaders have discussed in community meetings for several months, however the project never got off the ground until now.
The pier, which is expected to cost less than $100,000, is being completely funded by charitable donations from the community. Walton Garrett, a Lake Junaluska resident and active community member, was a primary benefactor who kickstarted the project.
The 87-year-old said he recently read an article about a Lion's Club raising money in their community to build a fishing pier, which gave him the idea.
"Fishing was my mother's favorite recreation and that of her father…I remember the pleasure of being on the water with the sun overhead while I cast my lures in the weeds or drowned my worm," he said. "I felt there were others that would enjoy that opportunity, both residents and visitors."
Garrett, a former Alabama lawyer and professor at then-Memphis State University, said the money he contributed to the project came from a business transaction he did for a friend probably more than 60 years ago.
"A law friend needed to merge an Alabama corporation and he was looking for someone with knowledge of Alabama law to do the transaction. I drafted the agreement, he paid me and I didn't need the money, so I put it in an IRA," Garrett said.
Over the years, the account grew and grew until he recently decided it was time to give it away, and he asked that the money be used to build the fishing pier.
"When my grandchildren were small they had a wonderful time fishing for brim with canned corn. Now that I am a great-grandfather, I hope to spend some future time fishing with children. Possibly someone will lend me a child for an afternoon of fishing," Garrett said.
There have since been several other anonymous charitable gifts to make the project possible and it has already gotten off to a strong start.
Though many people remember a time in the early 50s when the state posted 'No Swimming' signs at the lake because of high bacteria counts, "It's been decades since the lake was declared unsafe," Howle said. "The water quality has been good for quite some time."
The Division of Water Quality regularly tests the water and the wildlife is regulated by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, which conducts a regular fish test. The lake also works with Haywood Waterways to make sure the streams that feed into the lake are kept clean, a partnership for which Ewing said he is most grateful.
Now, it's not uncommon to see people launching their boats and fishing in the lake.
"If you talk to fishermen they will tell you it's a great fishing lake," he said. "We would not allow people to fish or swim in the lake if it was not safe."
As part of the Lake's new mission as well, there have even been triathlons that take place at the lake and the Polar Plunge, a fundraiser for Haywood Waterways, has taken place there as well.
Ewing said they plan to have the pier completed in early May, at which time they will begin to take reservations for storage of kayaks and canoes.
Garrett said he hopes residents and visitors will enjoy the newest addition to the lake.
"I believe Lake Junaluska is a great asset to Haywood County. That would be true if only for the walking path. When you add the programs, the music, the involvement and the residents as volunteers and the visitors, it adds up to a great big plus…I believe that pier fishing will be a significant addition, so I urge people to come help me drown some worms," Garrett said.