I checked with the Army Corps of Engineers to see how they were spending the $16 million allocated for Thurmond Lake and was pleasantly surprised at what I found.
According to a project list shared with us by Jeanne Hodge, of the corps Savannah office, and Aaron Wahus at Thurmond Lake, there are a host of things planned or under way -- ranging from docks to rangers to campground improvements.
One of the most visible projects, with much of it complete already, involves new courtesy docks at 15 recreation areas: Clarks Hill, Amity, Big Hart, Cherokee, Dordon Creek, Hawe Creek, Hesters Ferry, Keg Creek, Lake Springs, Modoc Campground, Modoc Ramp, Parksville, Scotts Ferry, Raysville and Winfield.
The docks are part of a $3.438 million recreation improvement package that also includes improved maintenance services such as mowing, cleaning and janitorial services and some minor construction projects, such as a boat shed at the project manager's office to expedite emergency response calls.
The funds will also be used to install a swimming beach at Mount Carmel campground and add facilities for park attendants at other camping areas.
At Petersburg, one of the most used camping areas at the lake, 32 campsites will get electrical upgrades. The group camp will be renovated at Big Hart and playgrounds will be expanded in six parks, according to the list.
The funding will also help complete an additional nine miles of mountain bike and hiking trails on the popular Bartram Trail network. The new extension will run from Petersburg Campground to Wildwood Park.
There will also be money allocated to improve access roads and the addition of 11 staffers at the lake.
The road improvements will be in forestry management areas including Below Dam, Dordon Creek, Dozier Creek and Grays Branch in Georgia; and at Catfish Peninsula in South Carolina.
Staffing additions will include six summer park rangers (some of them also worked last fall), two park ranger cooperative education students, an administrative assistant and two forestry technicians who will work one-year contracts. Most positions are already filled.
Waterline extensions are also planned with stimulus money. The lines will be extended to Lake Springs Day Use Area, Ridge Road campground and Winfield campground. The improvements will eliminate four wells and create a more reliable water supply for visitors.
The bigger items include a $436,617 cleanup of DDT-contaminated soil at the old airstrip near Lake Springs; $3.9 million for a two-year project to rehabilitate spillway gates; $3.4 million to replace an oil-filled pipe cable system connecting the powerhouse at the dam with the main distribution transformers; $2 million in asbestos abatement; and $1.6 million in new fire suppression systems.
RACK SCORING: Each year during March, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources scores deer antlers throughout the state, with a major scoring effort during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic March 26-28 at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia.
If you're not going to the Classic, there are dozens of scoring sessions in other areas. The closest one to the Aiken-Augusta area will be held March 5 at Wilson's Taxidermy, 158 Victory Lane, Bath, S.C., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more details, call (803) 593-3357.
A total of 5,232 sets of white-tailed deer antlers, including 5,039 typical racks and 193 non-typical, are currently ranked on South Carolina's all-time antler records list, according to Charles Ruth, Deer and Wild Turkey Project supervisor. Minimum scores for state record listing are 125 typical points and 145 non-typical points.
Although record deer have been recorded from all counties, Aiken, Anderson, and Orangeburg counties have produced the greatest numbers in the past three to four years.
ARCHERY HONOR: Congratulations are in order for Jim Pruitte, of Harlem, who was named USA Archery's 2009 Development Coach of the Year.
Pruitte is well known as the leader of the Georgia Archery Team and a tireless volunteer who enjoys working with youngsters. He is active in local event management, Columbia County 4-H and Pruitte's Archery. He has coached many successful young archers, including Garrett Abernethy, Kailey Johnston and Samantha Pruitte.
USA Archery's winning coaches were nominated by their peers, athletes and parents.
MISTLETOE HELP: Friends of Mistletoe State Park needs more volunteers to help with park programming and projects.
The group will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and member Brenda Bettross will present a slide show detailing the organization's accomplishments in recent years. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the park's Beach House. For more details, e-mail Jack or Peggy Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.