Vegetation is filling in the Old Mill Pond in Lexington, empty since the floods of 2015. (Photos by Madelyn Weston/Carolina News and Reporter)
The town of Lexington and the owner of Old Mill Pond are reviving the public greenspace to open in early 2024.
Talk about the walking trail surrounding the pond began around 2014. But construction was delayed when major flooding destroyed the dam in 2015, said pond owner Laban Chappell. He has now repaired the dam, and Lexington has begun laying concrete for the trail where people used to walk on unpaved ground.
“It’s been a long road, but we’re excited that we’re going to wrap it up and hope that people will be enjoying it this spring,” Chappell said. “It’ll just be a good thing for the town.”
Mayor Steve MacDougall wants to see people spending time together and enjoying the space again.
“We’re just really excited to add another community-oriented greenspace,” MacDougall said. “That’s how you make a sustainable neighborhood, sustainable communities.”
Lexington began work on the trail about three months ago, MacDougall said.
The trail could open as soon as March, depending on the weather, and will be about 8 feet wide and 1 mile long, he said. There also will be safety call boxes directly linked to the police and lights throughout the trail.
Adding a concrete trail means the pond is now ADA accessible, said Wesley Crosby, assistant to the town administrator and supervisor of the project.
The project includes an upper- and lower-level parking lot near Old Mill Brew Pub, with handicap parking on Main Street, Crosby said. The $3 million trail will have at least six entrances with about three access points for the nearby apartment complexes.
The pond was popular when he was growing up, MacDougall said. He hopes others will share that feeling when it reopens.
“Old Mill Pond is a very iconic pond,” MacDougall said. “As a young man, I used to waterski in that pond. It was big enough to have a jet boat in there.”
It’s unclear what water activities will be allowed in the pond. Chappell wants to work with community members to determine what people would like.
“I’d love to see, you know, fishing activities potentially, kayak, paddleboard-type activities,” Chappell said. “No motorboats or anything.”
Local businesses also are looking forward to appreciating its beautiful scenery again.
Hazelwood Brewing Co. plans to have a running club when the trail opens, said its president and co-founder, Matt Rodgers.
The proximity to Old Mill Pond is part of the reason Hazelwood moved into the area, Rodgers said. Lexington is growing quickly, and the community always has been supportive.
The dam that contains the pond is a grass-covered earthen mound that will be accessible from Hazelwood, Rodgers said. Bike racks and an observation deck will be located close to the rebuilt spillway at Twelvemile Creek.
And he thinks the view will attract more customers.
“We will be able to have a nice, flowing creek, and everybody loves flowing water, especially when you’re having a cold beer,” Rodgers said.
Chappell hopes the pond will be refilled by the end of the year.
The spillway is a natural one, so when the water hits certain heights, it naturally flows through, he said. Chappell said he would increase the water flow in the event of heavy rain to maintain the water level of the pond.
The trail is on a flood plain, but there shouldn’t be any issues, MacDougall said.
“We don’t expect any problems like flash flooding because, you know, there may be a situation where we have to close parts of the trail if we have a lot of rain,” Crosby said.
The town’s funds were allocated specifically for the project, said Laurin Barnes, communications manager for the Town of Lexington.
Chappell’s agreement with Lexington is in perpetuity, so as long as the town maintains the trail, the public will have access, he said.
Chappell has another plan, if he can make it work.
He has been rebuilding the hydroelectric generator from the original mill in hopes of providing power to one of the adjacent businesses.
The spillway bridge connects a lower-level parking lot to Main Street housing.
Twelvemile Creek will have this view from an observation deck near Hazelwood Brewing Co.
The view from the top of the dam shows local businesses and the construction of the lower-level parking lot.
Matt Rodgers, president and co-founder of Hazelwood Brewing Co., hopes the refilled pond will bring in more business.