County, city discuss West Point Lake improvements
Troup County is currently working on several projects to encourage more people to visit West Point Lake.
Last week, Troup County Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Crews presented to the LaGrange City Council the progress of a variety of projects designed to improve the quality of West Point Lake. There are plans in place to build a new multipurpose facility at Pyne Road Park and there have been discussions to improve camping amenities and to alter fish stocking.
“West Point Lake is probably our single most important attraction in terms of volume of people that it brings to our community,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “Anything that we can do to help cleanup West Point Lake, to help improve the fishing in West Point Lake, helping improve the use of West Point Lake, I think that we would like to be very much a part of that conversation.”
Thornton said that he has also been approached about the condition of the lake, but the city cannot regulate the lake, which is largely outside city limits and under the control of other government entities. Members of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce were also in attendance, and confirmed the magnitude of West Point Lake’s impact on the local economy.
“West Point Lake is our largest tourism driver,” said Page Estes, the president of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. “Two and a half million people visit the lake every year. About 3.5 million people visit Troup County in general, and all of that is before Great Wolf Lodge.”
The updates to Pyne Road Park under SPLOST are expected to increase use of the lake by providing a space for large groups.
“With encouragement from the [LaGrange-Troup County] Chamber of Commerce, when we had our last SPLOST, you are aware that we put in about $3 million to [build] a multipurpose facility here on West Point Lake,” Crews said. “The idea was that multipurpose facility will help attract groups to come into our community, whether it be bass fishing that J.J. [Kuerzi, who markets the lake for the chamber] might be working with — whether it is a corporate picnic, church groups, family reunions, shows, events, exhibits — that might be a way to showcase our lake.”
The design for the structure is almost complete, and Crews said the facility will have a 300-person seating capacity and will likely be complete within the next two years. The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the tourism committee from the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce and other groups were consulted on the design, according to Crews.
“With the help of Skip [Smith], we’ve been working over the last several months to come up with a design,” Crews said. “We had a group of people that met with him and discussed what we thought our ideas were for that facility.”
Additionally, the county plans to look at improvements for the Pyne Road Park campgrounds.
“We have a lot of campsites out there, but they are very rustic in nature, and so we think that going in there and doing some sprucing up — some changing and fixing of roads, improving the camp sites, providing the power outlets that campers require,” Crews said.
The county and chamber have been working to get young people interested in the lake and believe yurts might be part of the answer.
“They are a tent type structure, that is kind of like a Mongolian tent and it can be kind of octagon shaped or can be whatever you want it to be,
Crews said. “It is evident that the millennials or younger people love to go and stay in yurts.”
Finally, some of the desired improvements to fishing were discussed.
“It just seems years ago there were more bass fishermen heading to the lake on Friday and Saturday mornings, and those guys spend a lot of money,” said Council Member Mark Mitchell.
According to Crews, the state is the one who decides which fish are stocked in West Point Lake, but the state only began stocking the popular largemouth bass in the last few years. Largemouth bass can take over a decade to reach the impressive weight often sought after in tournaments. Several groups are looking at ways to ensure that those fish reach maturity.
“The state started 2 to 3 years ago putting largemouth bass in the lake, and we don’t know exactly what the timeline is for those to grow,” Crews said. “There are probably some different methods they should be using to put the fish in different areas of the lake. How do we protect those small fry until they get large? Those are some of the challenges.”
The LaGrange City Council was not asked to take any action regarding the information.