|Flood-prone bridge can block exit, trap campers|
Staff Photo by Charles Boothe:
The narrow concrete bridge that leads to Jamison Mill Park on Philpott Lake near Henry provides a serene, picturesque setting on a warm summer day. But a heavy rain can quickly cause the bridge to be buried under a strong flow of water as debris clogs the small culverts.
Monday, August 25, 2014
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Philpott Dam officials are working on a plan to replace the flood-prone bridge leading to Jamison Mill Park in Franklin County, and possibly saving the park in the process.
Craig "Rocky" Rockwell, operations manager of the dam, told the board of supervisors last week that the flow-over concrete bridge on Nicholas Creek is often blocked because the four culverts under it are too small. During a heavy rain, debris blocks the culverts and water runs over the bridge, often making it impassable.
Campers at the park can be trapped until the water recedes, he added.
"We've been trying (to replace the bridge) for about 20 years," he said. "We know we have a safety issue."
The flow is strong enough to sweep a car off the bridge, county officials have said.
Corps of Engineer officials at Philpott have said it is an unsustainable safety concern that must be addressed. If not remedied, the Corps could close the park to the public.
Rockwell said at least part of the funding for the replacement, which is now estimated to cost about $300,000, has been in the budget for about 10 years, but there has never been enough money to "get above the red line" on the project.
However, the Corps now has about $140,000 allocated to the project, Rockwell said, but the money must be spent by Sept. 30 to stay within this fiscal year.
That situation can be handled, he said, by purchasing the materials for the bridge replacement prior to that deadline.
Rockwell said the rest of the funding and possibly in-kind help for the work on the project could come from a partnership between such entities as the Dan River Basin, National Guard and Franklin County.
Rockwell asked the board to "come to the table" and be involved in solving the problem.
"Franklin County being at the table gives us a proponent to talk to the National Guard," he said, a move that can only be made if the county is involved.
To support his request, Rockwell briefed the board on visitation at the park and the financial impact lake visitation has on the county.
In the area surrounding the lake, a $20 million annual economic impact is estimated, he said, which includes a projection of how much money visitors spend in the counties surrounding the lake (Franklin, Henry and Patrick) while visiting.
Based on the number of visitors to Jamison Mill Park, the annual economic impact on Franklin County from that park is estimated to be about $350,000.
Rockwell also said the park is the "most natural" of all the parks around the lake because it has not been developed like the others. It also has six miles of hiking trails that are very popular, he added.
Blue Ridge District Supervisor Bobby Thompson said the park is a "wonderful place," and part of the county's comprehensive plan calls for preserving and promoting these attractions.
Rockwell said it's too early to know how much money or services will be needed from the county, but he requested they agree to at least participate in the process to replace the bridge.
Supervisors unanimously approved the request.