CUMMING - Lake Lanier's low levels have been drying up businesses, but a grassroots campaign to create a 40-foot boat ramp has rejuvenated the industry around Charleston Park.
The ramp, which opened Jan. 26, is the longest public ramp on the lake, said Candy Hammond, the owner of a fishing tackle shop. More than 150 people contributed a total of $40,000 for construction - about $10,000 of which was donated by Hammond.
With help from a bass fisherman who owns Viking Concrete Services and Forsyth County, the boat ramp was constructed in about two months, Hammond said. The Army Corps of Engineers, which leases Charleston Park to the county, approved the plans and monitored the project.
Forsyth County paid $7,800 for concrete for the project, said Tommy Bruce, the assistant director of the county's Parks and Recreation Department.
The ramp extends beyond the lake's current levels because a cofferdam was built to temporarily hold back the water, Hammond said.
"If the lake drops another seven feet, (the ramp) would still be usable," Hammond said.
Hammond said she led the efforts to build the ramp to keep Hammonds Fishing Center profitable.
"Our business was down about 25 percent, and we saw it was getting worse," Hammond said.
Now that the ramp is open, more people are visiting the park, and nearby businesses are profiting, she said. The new ramp is one the few open on Lake Lanier.
"We had a very good weekend," she said. "It was very well worth it."
Bruce said 15 to 40 boats will use the ramp on a nice day.
There is a $3 launch fee to use the ramp. Fishermen and boaters can also purchase a yearly pass from the county for $30, Bruce said.