Whipple Dam State Park will reopen to the public on Friday after being closed more than a year for a large-scale rehabilitation project, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of State Parks.
The state park in Petersburg has been closed since September 2019. It was originally slated to reopen in mid-to-late summer 2020, but was slowed by construction stoppages during the COVID-19 pandemic, park manager Michael Dinsmore told StateCollege.com last spring.
Over the course of the past 16 months, work on the project has included:
- Dredging of approximately 40,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment from the lake bed
- Re-paving of all paved surfaces in the park
- Addition of fish habitat structures and turtle platforms.
- Construction of a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier and new ramp at the beach.
Several structural improvements also were made to the dam, which was constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
John Nastase Construction of Snow Shoe was the contractor on the project.
Eagle Scout candidate Nicholas Cole, of State College, constructed eight new turtle basking platforms for the lake. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission assisted with a fish salvage operation, revision of lake habitat plan and construction of habitat structures to improve the fishery;
The dredging project was long-awaited one, having been discussed as far back as the late 1980s. It was designed to improve the quality of the lake for both wildlife and recreational uses.
“It had gotten to be that some parts of the lake resembled more of a wetland than a lake,” Dinsmore said last year, adding that sediment build up had made boat travel almost impossible in some parts of the lake.
Now that the project has been completed, trout stocking will resume on its normal schedule and the lake will be under normal regulations for opening day of trout season in April.
The Fish and Boat Commission will work with the Bureau of State Parks to re-stock the lake with various warm-water species, which will be under catch-and-release regulations until the populations have been re-established.
Visitors who plan to head out to the park during the winter months are advised that Laurel Run Road is not maintained, so travelers should follow signs and stay on the blacktop to enter via the exit road.
The Centre County Gazette’s Vincent Corso contributed to this report.