CIRCLEVILLE — The water at A.W. Marion State Park’s Hargus Lake is much lower than normal as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources drains the lake to make way for upcoming dam repairs.

The lake is about 54 inches below normal levels now, and will continue to drain until it’s about 10-12 feet lower than usual.

The project will include installing a new spillway and rehabilitating the downstream slope of the dam, which was originally constructed in 1947 and reconstructed in 1957. The last major work, outside of biannual maintenance, was in the 1980’s.

“When you’re the owner of a dam, there’s a lot more maintenance than people realize, clearing trees and mowing to help keep it safe,” Mark Hoffines, park director, said. “The dam is getting to the age where we need to do routine repairs that are a little more major now given its age.”

Some of the park’s features will remain closed during the project, which is expected to be complete in the fall of 2022. Perimeter Trail across the dam, the mountain bike trail on the dam and to the west, the parking lot near the memorial and the shelter house will be closed. The marina and bait shop will not open for the 2021 season.

The boat ramp will also close due to the low water.

Hoffines said the campground will remain open and people will still be able to fish, but shoreline access will not be allowed near the dam.

“For fishing and boat launching, the best place is the north side of the lake,” he said. “Near the island and the dam, the water averages about 40 feet, so even with a drawdown of about 10 feet, we still have 30 feet of water, which leaves a lot of fishing and kayak opportunities. People don’t realize how deep the lake is.”

In addition to drawing down the lake, about 10 to 15 acres of tress will be cleared for the project.

“We’re going to have a tree planting and we’ll be replacing some of those areas,” Hoffines said. “Some of it will remain natural grass that we’ll mow once or twice a year. The reason we’re clearing that land is to use the dirt in that area. It’s more cost efficient to use dirt on site versus trucking in dirt to the site to do what we need to do.”

Hoffines said information accidentally got out that the lake was 54 feet lower, and not 54 inches lower as the lake drawdown was taking effect. As of Tuesday morning, the lake was down six feet as it slowly drained to the lower levels for the maintenance work.

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