County may buy land at Belews Lake for future park

Belews Lake

County may buy land at Belews Lake for future park
November 01
02:00 2018

Forsyth County is in discussions with Duke Energy to potentially purchase 216 acres of land at Belews Lake for a new park.

Belews Lake is located in the northeast corner of the county and extends into Stokes, Rockingham  and Guilford counties. The lake was built in 1973 to provide cooling waters for Duke’s Belews Creek Steam Station. The lake itself is 3,863 acres and has an 88-mile shoreline.

The property the county is looking at is vacant and is used by Duke Energy for timber management and to protect the Belews Lake watershed. The lake was identified as a potential site for a regional park in the 2015 Winston-Salem & Forsyth County Parks Open Space Plan. County Manager Dudley Watts said that initial resident feedback on the project has been positive.

“Just from our initial reactions, there is a lot of interest in having a county park because we have a reputation of providing pristine facilities and maintaining them well in that area,” said Watts.

The proposed purchase price is $640,000 subject to a year long due diligence period for an environmental assessment, boundary survey, recombination plat and title work. The county may pursue possible grant funds to cover the purchase or may pay for it with the 2016 parks bond, two-third bonds, or pay-go money.

Deed restrictions on the land bar the county from building boat ramps for motorized crafts, and using the land for anything but a park. The county would own the land up to the shoreline and would need to lease use of the waterline from Duke for a nominal fee.

County commissioners plan to vote on the agreement to purchase the land today. If approved, the county could cancel the purchase at any time during the due diligence period.

Belews Creek Steam Station is located in another part of the lake, which is more than two miles away at Walnut Cove in Stokes County. The power plant has a 350-acre coal ash basin, which is a source of concern from residents and environmental activists who say it has contaminated nearby groundwater wells and caused health problems. Duke Energy says that it’s taken precautions and that state tests have shown the wells weren’t contaminated by the basin.

The lake is already used for boating and fishing, with two marinas serving it in Stokesdale: Carolina Marina and Humphrey Ridge.

Carolina Sportsman called the lake one of the state’s “unknown treasures” for bass fishing. The magazine said that selenium pollution from the power plant wiped out the fish in the lake’s early years, but the problem was discovered in 1978 and fixed by Duke Energy. The lake is now a lesser known, but thriving, place for fishing. Bass are active in the lake at times when they’d be dormant elsewhere, since the hot water discharge from the power plant makes most of the lake water warm year-round.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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