Weather may delay Cowans Gap park reopening

April 14, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - The weather has Steve Behe down.

When Behe, manager of the 1,142-acre Cowans Gap State Park, drives around the park he sees mud oozing around nearly finished construction projects.

Steady April rains falling on snow left over from a winter the likes of which has not been seen here in years are making a lot of mud.

Unless the ground dries out soon, the park, which has been closed since the fall of 2001 for a $4.5 million makeover, won't reopen in mid-May, the original target date, Behe said.


"It could be longer. We're taking it week-to-week," he said.

The park and its 42-acre lake were built in the mid-1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps workers. It was time for renovations, Behe said.

About a half-million patrons visit the park each year.

Facilities include four historic pavilions; 10 miles of hiking trails; a large beach with lifeguards, rowboat and paddle boat rentals; fishing; 10 rustic cabins; 233 campsites and a handicapped-access fishing pier.

Winter activities include ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The renovations were designed to reflect the park's natural rustic beauty, Behe said.

CCC workers painted the buildings brown when they were built, but most have been repainted green over the decades. All are brown again.

New construction includes four large modern restrooms with showers for men and women. Each has a unisex restroom for use by families with disabled members.

Visitors to the park this summer will see a new bathhouse, a remodeled concession stand, modern windows in all of the cabins, renovated campsites - many with electrical hookups and all with hot showers - new drinking fountains, a renovated boat concession stand and a new beach headquarters building with modern restrooms and showers.

More than 700 tons of new sand will be spread on the beach, and all of the park's paved roads will be resurfaced, Behe said.

The water storage tank that supplies the park's public water has been refurbished. A major component of the renovation project is replacement of the tower and equipment that controls the flow of water from the lake.

The lake is fed by Little Aughwick Creek, but leaks in equipment caused the level to drop in recent years.

Attempts to make repairs without draining the lake were unsuccessful, so the decision was made to drain and replace the tower and equipment, Behe said.

Silt hauled away

Tons of silt that accumulated on the bottom of the lake over the years were dredged out and hauled to another site on park land, Behe said.

The lake is home to several species of game fish, including trout, bass, perch and panfish. Park workers tried to relocate as many fish as possible last year, he said.

As things turned out, not all of the water in the lake could be drained. Enough remained in the middle to sustain the fish that could not be removed.

"Trout fishing should be back to what it was," Behe said.

The state will restock the other species later this year.

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