Revised on: 08.3.2018 at 11:14 a.m.
Posted on: 07.28.2018 at 11:00 a.m.
By Diana Matthews
The new bridge at Lake Waccamaw “will be the opening to grand new adventures in fitness and health,” said Julie Stocks, chair of the Take The Lake planning committee. “It will help more people get to know the lake.”
In particular she was pleased about what it means for the the 10th TTL coming up Labor Day.
For the first time since 2011, TTL’s land-based events will follow a complete circular path.
In 2009, walkers, runners and bicyclists started at the Lake Waccamaw State Park visitors’ center and rode to the end of the park’s paved road. Bicyclists then dismounted from their bikes, which were not, and still are not, allowed to be ridden on park trails.
Participants then traversed over four miles of sometimes boggy, sometimes bumpy lakeside trail and then carefully walked across the concrete ridge of the low dam where the Waccamaw River slips out of the lake and begins its way to the ocean.
Even with assistance from volunteers standing in the stream, crossing the dam one person at a time was a time-consuming part of the route and caused a bottleneck effect.
In 2010, organizer Mark Gilchrist announced that the Walk/Run routes would go counter-clockwise instead of clockwise, which allowed participants to spread out before arriving at the end of Waccamaw Shores Road and single-filing across the dam to the trail. The Walk/Run began at the state park, but the Bike/Hike began at Dale’s Seafood.
A Sept. 2, 2010, article by Gilchrist in The News Reporter announced that, “Organizers chose to save the 4.5-mile walk through the state park for the final leg of this event (Walk/Run), rather than send more than 300 people straight onto the narrow wooded trail.” In fact, 410 walkers and runners turned out to take part that year.
Gilchrist predicted that, “The town, the park and residents will have prepared the dam for easier passage, with a makeshift bridge over the river, and sandbags to aid in the short climb up the dam wall.”
The front page of the paper on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, showed a picture of State Park Ranger Jonathan Short sawing the top off a cypress knee “to place a temporary bridge over the river in preparation for Take the Lake this weekend.” Organizers later estimated that over 600 people took part in the Bike/Hike.
In August 2012, heavy rains from Hurricane Isaac raised the lake level almost to the top of the dam, causing TTL organizers to create a backup plan in case state park superintendent Toby Hall prohibited crossing the water.
The alternate Walk/Run route from the state park to the Wildlife boat ramp and back was nicknamed “the hook,” Gilchrist said; the Bike/Hike route, or “the horseshoe,” would begin at Dale’s Seafood, go to the state park, reverse direction all the way around to the dam, then finally come back to Dale’s.
“On these routes, participants won’t enjoy the beauty of the state park trails, but should be able to complete each challenge faster,” Gilchrist said. “The Bike & Hike will be five miles longer than usual to make up for the loss of the hike.”
The News Reporter announced on Thursday, Aug. 30, that, “The decision on each route will be made the night prior and will be posted on Whiteville.com and Takethelake.org.” By the day before the Walk/Run, however, water was pouring over the dam and destroying the makeshift bridge.
In 2013, Hall had to close the dam again, and TTL land events used Columbia Avenue as start and finish points. Although organizers hoped to be able to return to the circular route the following year, the “temporary” solution has evolved into an every year thing since then.
Elizabeth Brinkley Park offers an easy location for drivers to reach, with adequate parking, off of state park grounds.
This year’s Walk/Run and Bike/Hike will combine features of the original and the evolved TTL routes, encircling Lake Waccamaw completely again, but with the start/finish line at Elizabeth Brinkley Park.
Stocks said last week that she was “very excited” that the new bridge will allow people to “take the lake from any place” year-round. She observed about 20 people on the bridge when she stopped by for a look the first Sunday afternoon it was open.
“It’s going to be good for Lake Waccamaw,” she said.