The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 18, 2013

Dredging of Lake Julia is a fascinating endeavor

By Jim Raykie

---- — I can walk to Buhl Park in five minutes from my house in Sharpsville, while the driving range at Buhl Land Golf Course is but two minutes away.

Naturally, I have watched for weeks the hauling of silt and sludge from the bottom of Lake Julia to the driving range.

It’s really nonstop traffic from early morning until late afternoon as the large trucks shuttle their way from the lake to the range.

It’s all a part of a major project that is designed to dredge the lake, finally to a depth that can support plant life as well as a variety of quality fish, rather than only carp, suckers and other bottom feeders.

I have found all of this continual work fascinating. One only has to drive through the park and take a look at the lake to realize how much mud has been dug up from its bottom and transported across the street.

The dredging has been long overdue, and really, a necessary job. For years, park officials have toyed with undertaking the project, only to find that it was cost-prohibitive.

However, in striking a deal with Kirila Contractors of Brookfield for the digging and hauling – expected to end in mid-March – the park saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and was able to move forward.

While it may sound like an easy chore, nothing is as easy as it appears to be when the various regulatory agencies get involved with a project of this magnitude.

It’s not as simple as: “OK, let’s get the trucks and dozers in here and let’s go dump the mud.”

A handful of callers to The Herald have questioned the process, as well as a writer of a letter to the editor last week. Most have asked why the sludge couldn’t have been placed somewhere in the park, eliminating the need to close the driving range for a year.

I tell them to take a ride by the park, look at the driving range, and try to find another area in the park that would accomodate such a massive amount of dirt.

PennDOT used to have a saying that its work on roads caused temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement. That applies here.

I like to go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls, and when I do, the place is usually packed. Some of them are duffers like me, which makes me feel right at home.

But the lake project has been placed on the back burner for many years, and it’s important for everyone who enjoys the park that Lake Julia be ecologically sound.

When the pond refills later in spring, and when the swans and other wildlife return to restake their claim, and when it’s stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission, and when it’s able to freeze and just maybe provide a venue for ice skating again (fingers crossed on the park’s liability clearances), it should all be worth the temporary inconveniences.

ä An evening with Bill O’Brien

I had the great fortune to attend last Wednesday’s Penn State Shenango fundraiser that featured head football Coach Bill O’Brien.

It was an extraordinary coup for the local campus to land the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year, and the more than 200 attending enjoyed his speech and his congeniality. The coach signed dozens of autographs and took photos with everyone who asked.

He talked more about academics and high character athletes than he did about football, much to the delight of the crowd that included mostly Penn State graduates.

O’Brien’s a winner, top to bottom.

Jim Raykie is the executive editor of The Herald and his column is published on Mondays.