Story from The Augusta Chronicle
BURNETTOWN, SOUTH CAROLINA — With work on the Langley Pond dam project scheduled to be completed by the end of January, the pond could be ready to play host to rowing events next spring for the first time in about five years.
“We’re hoping to row in March, we’ve already had phone calls, people trying to get on the schedule for next year, and we’re hoping that we hit it, that we bring their regattas back to Langley Pond.”
“We’re hoping to row in March,” said Jim Buckalew, parks manager with the Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department. “We’ve already had phone calls, people trying to get on the schedule for next year, and we’re hoping that we hit it, that we bring their regattas back to Langley Pond.”
Buckalew was among those taking part in a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the Langley Pond Finish Line Tower Project at Langley Pond Park.
Langley Pond has been closed since November 2014 after leaks were discovered in the dam. Work to repair and strengthen the dam began in March 2018.
County Administrator Clay Killian said January is the target date to complete dam repairs “if we can get enough dry days. They’ve lost about 30 days to the rain. They hope to make that back up when the days get longer. They’ll work longer and they’re planning on working on weekends, weather permitting.”
The last rowing event held on the pond was the USRowing Southeast Masters Regional Championships in June 2014, said Buckalew, who has worked for USRowing.
“We’ve been off the water for about five years, and that hurts,” he said. “You talk to some of the businessmen about the loss of income from the events that come in here because those people buy food, they go to restaurants and they stay in hotels. We’re hoping to get all that back.”
Buckalew said “we have the course designed to be an eight-lane, which makes it an international-level course. We have the finish line tower that will accommodate the video and and all the broadcast information that goes out on a high-level regatta.”
The tower project, which includes creating parking and building a walkway to take people down to the three-story tower, will cost about $1.1 million.
Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker said the tower project, which includes creating parking and building a walkway to take people down to the three-story tower, will cost about $1.1 million. Stewart Builders Inc., of Aiken, is the contractor. The project is funded by the capital projects sales tax program, the accommodations tax, and the Undiscovered SC grant program.
Bunker said contracts have been issued to remove stumps and work will be done to remove a sand bar to get the pond ready to host rowing again.
“When it comes back, it’ll be back bigger and better,” Killian said.
Mark van der Linden, the director of the parks department, said the tower “should be done a few months before” repairs to the dam are scheduled to be completed.
“Really the timing is perfect, and we’ll start to begin recruiting events,” he said. “The finish line tower is really one of the parts of rowing that the event planners want. They want to have a place where they can judge and officiate. It is one of the pieces we were missing at Langley Pond.”
The addition of the tower will make Langley Pond a world-class venue, officials said.
The pond has played a key role in rowing for 25 years, said George Fry of the Augusta Rowing Club. Fry said members of the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team trained on Langley Pond in June-July 1994 before going to Munich to represent the U.S. in the World Championships.
Later in 1994, trials to select the U.S team for the 1995 Pan-American Games in Argentina were held on the pond. In 1995, leading up to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, teams from Norway, Lithuania and Ukraine trained there.
“We had medal winners from around the world that trained on Langley Pond,” Fry said.
Read the story on The August Chronical: https://www.augustachronicle.com/news/20190301/aiken-county-officials-hope-to-bring-back-langley-pond-rowing-events-by-next-spring
Image caption: A drawing of the Langley Pond Finish Line Tower that is to be built at Langley Pond Park. [COURTESY OF AIKEN COUNTY PARKS, RECREATION & TOURISM]