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Answer Man: When will lake be filled again at Carl Sandburg Home?

Apr 10, 2023

FLAT ROCK - Today's questions are in reference to the Front Lake at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, located at 1800 Little River Road in Flat Rock. Got a question for Answer Man or Answer Woman? Email Asheville Citizen Times/Hendersonville Times-News Executive Editor Karen Chávez at [email protected] and your question could appear in an upcoming column.

Question: How much longer will the Front Lake at Carl Sandburg Home be left drained like it is now, and when will the pedestrian bridge reopen?

Answer: Visitors to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock have seen an empty Front Lake for months now, due to drainage issues with the historic dam, located at the pedestrian bridge. On Aug. 9, 2022, the bridge was closed for safety concerns, and the lake drained due to failure at the dam. It took a couple of months for the lake to drain down to where the lake bed could be seen.

The dam, built in the 1850s, has undergone repairs over the years, and this isn't the first time the historic lake has been drained. The National Park Service drained it once in the 1970s to repair the dam and then again in 2010 when the gate valve was replaced, according to the Park Service's website at

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With the bridge closed, visitors now must take an extra 0.4-mile hike around the lake to get to the hill that is a 1/3-mile long that ends up at the Sandburg house and other buildings. There is also a shuttle, which currently runs on an as-needed basis. When people arrive at the park, they can call 828-707-8125 for the shuttle.

Everyone is wanting to know when the repairs will be done, when the lake will be back to its normal self and when the pedestrian bridge will reopen. The Times-News talked with Carl Sandburg Home Park Superintendent Pauline Angelakis on April 14 to find out.

"We just learned two days ago that we received funding (from the National Park Service) for the design portion of the repairs. That's the first big step," she said. "Doing an in-depth investigation and look at the dam will determine the repairs that are needed. We know generally the repairs that are needed, but the design will provide the 'how-to' repair."

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Angelakis said her team estimated $200,000 for the repairs.

"When we get the funds for the repairs, the best-case scenario is repairs will begin in fiscal year 2025," she said.

Until then, the lake will remain dry, she said.

"We can't fill it, because the dam is eroded," she said.

Angelakis said visitors' reactions to seeing the empty lake and also not being able to use the historic bridge have been mixed.

"People are understandably upset at the loss of the lake and the impacts on the aquatic life," she said. "Most people understand what happened ... that it was a combination of how the dam was originally built and then how repairs that were made in the 1980s involved corrugated metal pipes, because that was the industry standard. But due to corrosion and rust and the issues we've had with them, they are no longer the industry standard."

Angelakis said when the repairs are finished, park staff will develop a more "robust and in-depth inspection schedule."

"For the past 10-12 years, we've relied on a visual inspection, and the seepage that was coming out of the dam was deemed normal ... until it wasn't," she said.

Dean Hensley is the news editor for the Hendersonville Times-News. Email him with tips, questions and comments at [email protected]. Please help support this kind of local journalism with a subscription to the Hendersonville Times-News.

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