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What to do with Lake Hazle?

Joe Coates Publisher

by Joe Coates
Publisher

One of the assets, I guess you could say, of the City of Hazlehurst is Lake Hazle. Located behind the current hospital, the lake is visited by many each day–for picnic lunches, fishing, or other recreational activities. No community-wide events have been held at the lake’s pavilion in a couple years, and even the, it may have been one or two.
The lake passed its prime decades ago. I’ve heard stories of ski boats and skiers and swimming and so forth, though in my four-and-a-half decades of living I’ve never witnessed such activity in Lake Hazle. Several new homes were built around the lake some 40 or 50 years ago, and the view from Hardy Wilson Memorial Hospital over the lake was once magnificent.
It has some nice, well-kept facilities–picnic areas, bathrooms, two covered pavilions and a wooden overlook area. At lunch time, you can drive around the lake and count up to two or three dozen vehicles parked along its perimeter streets–people escaping the hustle and bustle of the office and choosing to enjoy the sunshine for a few fleeting minutes. Fishermen, too, can be seen along certain parts the lake at any given time of the day.
Conversely, what once was probably a jewel in the crown of the community seems to have become a down-right burden to the city, which just approved another six-grand to be spent on a yearly dam inspection. The dam had to be shored up by the county a few years ago because of a tussle with MDEQ over the issue of a single house that sits on a hill behind the dam possibly being in danger if the dam ever broke. Additionally, a dike had to be built across the eastern third of the lake when the Hwy. 28 bypass was being built because of silt runoff from the red clay material used in the construction–another feather in the cap of DEQ. That part of the lake still turns orange when it rains because of the bypass and is really no more than a holding pond for highway pollution right now. Swimming in it is not recommended.
So, kind of like how the county will be with old hospital when the new one is finished, the city is sort of stuck with the lake. Yearly maintenance just to satisfy federal and state authorities has to be done without question and with no regard to cost. Secondary, or ‘wish list’ items get pushed back because of the sunk cost of regulation. But, with as many daily users of the lake as there is, and the possibility of large community events being held at the lake–not to mention the high number of families that live around it–the city must continue with at least minimul upkeep with a goal of major renovations at least every 10 years.
It’s a cost we all must share. We may as well enjoy it as best as we can.

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