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A swim beach, camping and more could start a new rush of recreation in Chester County

In 2004, Duke Energy once more sent water surging down the Great Falls channel for paddlers. Duke will release water about twice a month in the summer under a new hydro license that is expected to be granted by the end of this year.
In 2004, Duke Energy once more sent water surging down the Great Falls channel for paddlers. Duke will release water about twice a month in the summer under a new hydro license that is expected to be granted by the end of this year. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

York isn’t the only county working to get its residents out to the water. Chester leaders are dipping their feet in, too.

Duke Energy sent Chester County a public lease agreement for work planned at Fishing Creek Access Area. Duke would put in a swimming area, fishing pier and more parking.

“It’s going to basically be a swim beach,” said Shane Stuart, county supervisor. “They’re going to upgrade this facility and actually hand it over the county for county operations. Some skin in the game for us would be the proposed campsites, the proposed office building and of course a concession stand.”

The concession stand could generate revenue for a county employee there, plus lifeguards.

“You’re going to have a swim beach that’s being established on the Catawba River,” Stuart said. “It’s going to benefit the town of Fort Lawn and the town of Great Falls, and of course, all of Chester County. I don’t think, we have had a swim place like this on the Catawba River for quite a while.”

Chester County Councilman Michael Vaughn asked the county to take time to look at pros and cons of the project, cost estimates and potential income.

“This is a very popular fishing place, and swimming as well,” he said. “I think this is going to be a great addition to the communities involved.”

Council will vote on the lease at a future meeting.

The access area is off Catawba River Road, between Fort Lawn and Great Falls. It’s on Fishing Creek Lake, across the road from where Fishing Creek runs. It’s downstream of Landsford Canal State Park, known for its spider lily blooms. Fishing Creek Lake is the nearest downstream lake to Lake Wylie on the Catawba River chain.

Other recreation improvements

Duke’s work is part of its federal relicensing program.

Recreation improvements also include a new Lower Falls Reservoir with canoe/kayak launches, restroom, parking and historic structure displays in the Great Falls area.

Construction this year starts work on a fishing pier, bank fishing trail and more parking at Springs Park Access Area.

The same recreation plan is responsible for the recent additions of restrooms at Buster Boyd Access Area on Lake Wylie. Other recent additions on Lake Wylie include swim, picnic, fishing and parking at Dutchman’s Creek, South Point and Allison Creek access areas. Duke also has a new Rock Hill park proposed with a swim area, picnic site, bank fishing, trails, restrooms and parking.

In Chester County, one of the biggest changes will be the restoration of water flow to the long-dry riverbed that once lent Great Falls its name. Dams built more than a century ago created a reservoir but cut off water to a stretch of falls that should be back starting in 2022. Some of that area would be used for whitewater recreation.

“When the whitewater starts flowing at Great Falls, this campground could possibly be in high demand,” Vaughn said of Fishing Creek Access Area.

The Fishing Creek site is listed among the many Duke recreation projects as occurring within the first five years of its new federal license. The first projects began in 2018.

More communities are seeing the value of water-based recreation. York County is making significant improvements to Ebenezer Park Access Area, while also planning for a 1,900-acre riverfront recreation site in the Rock Hill area. Tega Cay is working on the waterfront Catawba Park, its most ambitious recreation plan ever combining sports fields, trails and more.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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