Clear skies and clear water were on tap Sunday for a rededication ceremony celebrating the reopening of Colyer Lake.
Kayakers and canoeists drifted lazily across the lake as a group of about 70 gathered in support of the event, acknowledging the work of both the state and the community in restoring the lake to its former glory.
This year marks the first time the lake has been seen at its former levels, after the lake was lowered and eventually drained in 2014. The lake was one of 25 other Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lakes across the state that have high-hazard dams in need of repair, PFBC Executive Director John Arway said at the event.
“We’re thrilled to be able to reopen this lake for the outdoor enthusiasts in Centre County,” Arway said. “We recognize the value lakes bring to area communities in terms of tourism and quality of life.”
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The lake project cost about $4.2 million, he said. Joining forces with local volunteer groups, the commission was able to leverage funds to finish the lake.
The main community acknowledged for its work was the Save Colyer Lake organization, headed by President Judge Thomas King Kistler. Kistler described the group as a community of residents from around the Colyer area and also the county as a whole who “felt they needed to step up and show how important the lake is for Centre County.”
Kistler thanked the work of the organization, as well as the individual effort residents put in to getting the lake restored.
“It’s a beautiful day, it’s a beautiful lake,” he said. “There’s a lot of wonderful people here enjoying the water and each other’s company. It’s a wonderful day.”
Arway described the efforts that were taken to restore the lake, including thanking Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. for donating 300 tons of lime to cover the bed of the lake, neutralizing the acidic water that feeds into the lake from the Bear Meadows wetland.
Efforts have been made to increase the fish productivity of the lake as well, he said. In January, the Centre Region Council of Governments regional refuse and recycling program donated used Christmas trees to be added to the lake bed to create fish habitats.
Restocking of the lake will take time, he said. About 40,000 fathead minnows were released into the lake Sunday with the help of many of the children in attendance.
“A lot of people call them flatheads,” Arway said, “but that’s a catfish. We certainly don’t want any catfish in the Susquehanna river basin.”
Starting with bait fish is a fishery management practice, he said. The minnows will feed off plankton and grow to a larger size. Later, larger sport fish will be added, including bass, bluegills and yellow perch.
Establishing a fishery typically takes about three to five years, a PFBC news release said.
The ultimate goal, Arway said, is to have people catching large fish again.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, was recognized as well for his efforts on the legislative end of securing funding. Benninghoff related his memories of paddling around the lake with his children, and noted how it’s easier to advocate for tax dollars when the community rallies behind a project.
“This is not about this small community here, but about the county as a whole,” he said. “There’s nothing stronger than the public getting around an issue and public input to make a difference.”