by Bill Mardis
Labor Day is a holiday to celebrate the social and economic contributions of workers. Typically Americana, we pay tribute to work by taking the day off to play.
Observance of Labor Day on the first Monday in September creates a three-day holiday, and one of the best places to have fun is in, on and around Lake Cumberland. If you haven’t been on the lake recently, you’re missing a treat. The water is deep, blue and scenic.
For most workers, getting away from the boss is restful, and there’s no better hiding place than in remote coves along Lake Cumberland’s more than 1,200 miles of shoreline. Rolling foothills of the Cumberland Mountains cuddle the spacious waters into a world of its own; especially in Pulaski County, where higher hills and cascading waterfalls mimic an artist’s painting.
The weatherman, as he has so many times this summer, is trying to rain on our picnic. He is talking about thundershowers off and on, but it’s going to be hot and humid, just like summer. Think positively, a 40 percent chance it will rain means there’s a 60 percent chance it won’t.
Lake Cumberland is almost completely free of debris and the water level is stable, according to Tom Hale, operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Eastern Kentucky area. “Of course, there could be an isolated piece of debris, but the lake is very, very free of floating materials,” Hale said.
At midweek, the lake was about 699 feet above sea level. Hale said he expects the water to stay about this level through the Labor Day weekend. After that, the Corps plans to draw the lake down to about 690 feet for two or three months while clean-up work continues at Wolf Creek Dam. Excess rock from the dam rehabilitation project is being hauled away and riprap is being put in place to armor the upstream side of the dam.
Corps-operated recreational areas around the lake are expected to be full of campers during the three-day holiday. Hale said information about campsite availability can be had by contacting the National Recreation Reservation Service toll-free at 1-877-444-6777.
For those without a tent or a boat, Pulaski County is still a fun place. Somerset is a shopper’s paradise for landlubbers whiling away their time.
SomerSplash, Somerset’s magnificent water park on 2227 north of town, will be open Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.; Sunday from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m.; and Labor Day from 11a.m. until 5 p.m. The park, billed as Kentucky’s Best Waterpark, will close for the season after Labor Day.
The weather forecast for the Labor Day weekend is worrisome for someone like Steve Lutz, head golf professional at General Burnside Island State Park. “Everybody has got their ear to the weather forecast ... rain is not good for the lake and the golf course,” said Lutz. “The good news is, they (meteorologists) keep lowering the percentage for rain during the weekend ... it can rain all it wants to beginning Tuesday,” he laughed. An approaching cold front is a trigger for Monday’s predicted showers, and the weather is expected to become autumn-like at midweek.
Good weather brings good things to a recreational area. “Last weekend, the weather was beautiful and we were simply overrun (at the state park),” said Lutz.
Even with a less than optimistic forecast, things seem to be picking up. “My telephone is ringing ever 15 minutes,” Lutz said.
All in all, with the lake 20 feet higher this summer than for the past six years, lake traffic is up considerably over last year, according to Van Back, assistant to the director at Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau. Back has a first hand look. His property backs up to the lake near Conley Bottom.
Carolyn Mounce, executive director of the bureau, said a check at midweek showed area motels rooms 45 percent reserved on Friday night, 70 percent full on Saturday night and 40 percent full Sunday night. Mounce emphasized the sampling was taken Wednesday and motels were still taking calls. A less than optimistic weather forecast is believe to have slowed reservations, she said.
“It looks like most of the visitors staying at motels are arriving on Saturday and leaving Sunday,” Mounce said.
Bed and Breakfast and other rentals were doing better. “For the most part, bed and breakfast and other rentals are booked solid and the guests are staying longer, arriving on Friday and some staying until Tuesday,” Mounce said.
This Labor Day weekend is summer’s last holiday. This is the last holiday weekend when Lake Cumberland is less than full.
Next summer, rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam will have been completed and Lake Cumberland should be in normal operation. At long last, the Ohio Navy will be plying a lake stretching 101 miles, from near Jamestown through Pulaski County to near Corbin.
As locals love to say, “The water is fine, come on in!”