Editor’s Note: WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were murdered Wednesday while doing a live interview with Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Gardner about the lake’s upcoming 50th anniversary. Gardner remains in the hospital recovering from her injuries. In an effort to ensure the story Parker and Ward were trying to tell at the time of their deaths, WJHL as fellow journalists wanted to make sure we could help finish the story that they sacrificed their lives to tell.
March 7th, 1966 at 5:03 am. At that exact moment Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, VA become a reality, but it’s hard to imagine just what kind of impact the lake would have on the region almost 50 years later. What started as an Appalachian Power project to produce electricity has since become one of the top places in Southwestern Virginia for people to relax and make memories.
In celebration of 50 years of the “Great Lake” the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce is preparing to kick off a yearlong party. In fact, Wednesday afternoon business leaders planned to meet to discuss their involvement and participation with the celebration.
Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Troy Keaton says the lake is known for its mountainous shoreline with nice homes and great fishing. He describes it as a wonderful place to visit, vacation and live.
“Smith Mountain Lake is a beautiful, quiet lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Keaton said. “We call it the ‘Jewel of the Blue Ridge’ and we’re excited about 2016.”
The celebration officially kicks off in October when the community will host the premiere of a public television documentary about the lake. In the early days, the manmade lake was just an idea. It was first discussed as a possibility in the 1920s. Eventually, Appalachian Power built two dams, which in turn created Smith Mountain Lake. According to the chamber, the lake covers 20,600 acres and includes more than 580 miles of shoreline.
“Smith Mountain Lake is a hidden jewel and the 50th anniversary is a time for this lake and this region to shine bright,” Keaton said. “We invite everyone. Come visit Smith Mountain Lake. That’s what (Executive Director Vicki Gardner) would want me to tell you.”
In addition to fishermen and vacationers, Smith Mountain Lake attracts boaters, golfers, shoppers and food lovers. Smith Mountain Lake is home to almost 12,000 people and welcomes an additional 50,000 vacationers during the summer, according to the chamber. As an interesting side note, the movie “What about Bob?” featuring Bill Murray was filmed there.
Click here for a list of events for the 50th celebration.
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