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Wildcat Lake Closed to Swimmers After ‘Getting Very Slimy;’ Cleanup Going Well; Should Reopen Soon

By Paul T. Choate

Aug. 2, 2012. On Saturday, July 28, a notice was sent out from Jim Swinkola, CEO of Grandfather Home for Children, alerting the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce that Wildcat Lake would be closed to swimmers due to maintenance.

The notice read as follows: “With the goal of maintaining the highest level of quality for our guests at Wildcat Lake, swimming will cease temporarily. The lake still welcomes those who enjoy fishing, picnicking, use of the playground equipment and sun bathing. The lake will be lowered immediately to permit quality assurance maintenance and will reopen for swimming as soon as possible. We apologize for any disruption in family outing plans that may be encountered.”

Absent from the notice was why the lake was being closed off to swimmers. According to Don Young, director of properties at Grandfather Home for Children, the lake was closed due to algae.

“With the recent high temperatures we had a large algae bloom and everything was getting very slimy,” said Young. “It’s a normal condition but you don’t see it much in the High Country with the lakes at lower temperatures.”

Young and his crew treated the lake for algae and dropped the water level a little to get some fresh water in. It’s not certain when the lake will reopen to swimmers but Young said it would be in a couple of weeks or so depending on rainfall.

“Everything is fine,” said Young. “It’s just a normal part of the life cycle of a lake.”

About Wildcat Lake

In 1932, Edgar Hall Tufts oversaw the construction of a new dam on the Wildcat Stream to provide a backup water supply for the hydroelectric plant in Banner Elk. The dam was constructed using student labor for about $5,000. Over the years the lake’s purpose shifted to recreation. Every summer the cool waters attract people from all over the High Country to go swimming and fishing.