Lexington SC (Devin Ruiz) - On October 4th, 2015, Gibson Pond in Lexington was one of many public spaces which was affected by the disastrous flood our state experienced. The dam of the pond was blown out by the tremendous influx of water and overtopping occurred. Now, a year and a half later, the town of Lexington is still working hard to rebuild the dam, refill the once beautiful pond, and reopen the full park to the public. The community, however, seems to be getting worried, a little impatient with the progress, and skeptical that the once beautiful pond may never return.
Town officials began seeking federal disaster assistance for the rebuilding of the pond dam, and several other storm recovery projects, after determining that the park’s damaged dam was eligible for federal assistance. This in itself was an exhaustive process.
The pond was originally created a number of years ago and was once a source of water, and a major attraction for the residents of Lexington, as well as visitors from other areas. In truth, it not only brought a sense of community to the Lexington area, but also provided a serene, peaceful area for picnics, parties, and other outdoor recreation. Fishing was enjoyed from the dock or the banks, as well as other water related activities.
The pond’s dam had stood for many years before the 2015 flood broke it down. When the water was released, it flooded the roads below, as well as the mill pond, the old textile mill complex itself, and everything else downstream. That dam at the mill also failed and the end results were two gapping mud holes where beautiful waters once attracted so many. Gibson Pond is no longer pretty to look at or fun to use, hence the town’s citizens and government's eagerness to rebuild and repair it.
Over the past several years, members of the town council and its administration have worked with state and federal regulators in an attempt to come up with a design to repair the dam. They walked through modern-day safety features which are now required when building dams and the project was sent to engineers. According to Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougal, regulators first wanted the dam to be able to withstand the worst flood ever, times 100!
After that standard was used and engineering plans for the dam were drawn, town officials realized that the costs of rebuilding Gibson Pond’s dam would be in the tens of millions of dollars. According to the mayor, “They basically wanted us to build the Lake Murray dam for the pond on Gibson Road!”
According to Mayor MacDougall, town officials asked regulators to reconsider, to be a bit more realistic, and they began a process of negotiation that would allow the dam to be returned in a safe, yet somewhat affordable standard. Once that was done and an agreement was reached, the search for funds to undertake the repairs began.
Under the new, now approved engineering standard, the total cost of rebuilding just Gibson Pond’s dam is expected to be approximately three million dollars. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is expected to pay $2.25 million of that cost as their part of the continuing flood recovery effort. Now, the town must either find funds, or an alternate source of funds, to pay the remaining $750,000. Mayor MacDougall says that there is a possibility that there will be state funds available to assist with this balance, but that has not been confirmed or agreed upon. If an agreement can’t be reached with the state, the town of Lexington will need to come up with the balance from somewhere.
Right now, the town has done some bank stabilization downstream of Gibson Road to prevent silt and soil from washing into the stream when it rains. This will help to ensure that the water quality of the creek is maintained at a high standard while further negotiations take place. At this point, that is the extent of the action planned by the town until additional funding is secured.
Mayor Steve MacDougall said recently he is confident that the additional funding will be secured that will allow Gibson Pond to be returned to its pre-flood splendor. If that happens as he expects, construction could begin to repair the dam in the next 6 to 10 months. Until that time comes, although no other town park is quite as unique as Gibson was, there are plenty of other parks around town for people to enjoy.
For more information about this park, or any of the parks in the town of Lexington, you can check out the park’s page on the Town of Lexington’s website at http://www.lexsc.com/parks_index.htm.