Robert Lake Park restorations have begun in Montreat

Paul Clark
Black Mountain News
The Montreat Conference Center is hoping to get part of Robert Lake Park - a favorite of residents and visitors - open during its busy summer season.

At least some of Robert Lake Park in Montreat will reopen soon, the Montreat Conference Center said.

Crews have been re-mulching and graveling two areas of the park so the conference can meet its goal of opening those areas as soon as possible — and possibly by June 28, center spokesman Tanner Pickett said. The park has been closed since early June, when Flat Creek flooded the two-acre park during Subtropical Storm Alberto. Flat Creek did significant damage in Black Mountain as well, as did the Swannanoa River.

Not having Robert Lake Park available to the hundreds of conferees visiting Montreat is “devastating,” said Mike Morse, the conference center’s vice president for hospitality and facilities.

“This is a blow to the families with children who spent summer down there and have vivid memories of doing things in the park, like rock-hopping and building forts,” Morse said. “It’s sort of their ‘safe haven’ playground.”

People from 26 states have contributed more than $100,000 toward the park restoration, conference center president Richard DuBose wrote recently in the Montreat Conference Center newsletter. Any money contributed in excess of repair costs will be put into an endowment fund that supports the maintenance and upkeep of the park, he said.

Part of Robert Lake Park, badly damaged by Subtropical Storm Alberto, won't be open until early fall, administrators say.

Normally about eight feet wide, Flat Creek at Robert Lake Park during Alberto stretched to 30 feet in places, Morse said. “It was tossing things about like pieces of barn in a tornado,” he said.

The damage is worse than what the park sustained during the back-to-back hurricanes in 2004, he said.

“It washed out areas that didn’t get washed out in 2004,” he said. This time there was damage to the entrance to Bill Wilde Youth Center and to the play areas closest to Texas Road. Heavy picnic tables were moved.

“We have heard that someone found one of our benches somewhere (in) downtown (Black Mountain),” Morse said. “We know of two picnic tables that we have not seen any parts of.”

Morse has met with the landscape architect and the civil engineer who helped redesign the park after the 2004 flooding. Both professionals agree the damage was far worse this time, he said.

Once the mulch and gravel are spread, it will take six more week to draw up, review and get approval for restoration plans, Morse said. The conference center will have an idea of the costs once it puts the restoration contract out for bid. Work could start by the end of August and should be done within six weeks, he said.