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Greenbrier closes lake to swimming

May 18, 1999

Greenbrier Lake closedBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




GREENBRIER - Only the fish will be swimming at Greenbrier Lake this summer.

Extremely low water levels have forced the closing of the popular swimming spot at Greenbrier State Park, the Department of Natural Resources State Forest and Park Service said Tuesday.

Some 550,000 local residents and out-of-towners flock each year to the park, which is just east of Hagerstown of U.S. 40, Park Manager Daniel Spedden said.

"It's one of Maryland's most popular parks," Spedden said. "It's terribly disappointing."

The lake normally opens for swimming during weekends in May, and visitors fill the park as early as 11 a.m. on summer holidays and weekends, Spedden said.

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Park rangers often have to turn people away until late in the afternoon on those days, he said.

Park visitors can still participate in such recreational activities as volleyball, hiking, biking, picnicking, boating and fishing, but "No Swimming" signs will be posted, Spedden said.

Violators will face a $50 fine, he said.

The scarcity of rainfall has reduced the 50-acre lake by more than half, and the deepest point has been cut from 35 feet to 25 feet, Spedden said.

The two creeks and several springs that feed the lake are now mere puddles, he said.

Only 4.01 inches of rain fell in the area from September through December 1998, compared to 26.7 inches of precipitation during those months in 1997, according to data from Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

The amount of rainfall through April of this year is down some 5 inches from the same period last year, according to Keefer's data.

When State Forest and Park Service workers drew down the lake last September to replace a failing 25-year-old water flow control valve, park officials were confident the lake would refill in time for the swimming season, Spedden said.

The lake was ready to take on water in October, and Spedden said he had calculated the lake would be full be mid-March or early April.

But the weather didn't cooperate.

Spedden predicted it would now take some eight months for the lake to reach full capacity.

Despite the swimming ban, the park is booked for camping during Memorial Day weekend, Spedden said.

The lakefront beach will be available for sunbathing, and boats can be launched by hand, Spedden said.

While the lake wasn't stocked with its usual abundance of trout, the DNR Fisheries Service stocked a minimal amount of the fish, Spedden said.

"The bass and pan fish are still abundant," he said.

Due to the lake closure, the park has reduced service charges this year.

Half-priced Wednesdays, with admission at $1 per person, have been extended to include all weekdays, except holidays. Weekend visitors will pay $2 per person instead of $3. Camping charges will remain the same.

Nearby Cunningham Falls State Park, near Thurmont, Md., off Md. 77 in Frederick County, will offer swimming.

Other public swimming facilities in Washington County include: Marty Snook County Park Pool on Halfway Boulevard; Potterfield Pool on Frederick Street; Williamsport Pool in Byron Memorial Park; and Memorial Recreation Center Pool on North Avenue.

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