ANDERSON, S.C. – Every time Matt Schell crosses Lake Hartwell on the Highway 24 bridge and looks back to his left at the lights glowing from the newly renovated Green Pond Landing, he gets chills.
“It’s the same feeling a lot of people get when they’re going to a football stadium and they can see those lights in the distance,” said Schell, manager of the Anderson County Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s the culmination of so much hard work and dedication by so many people. I really feel like it’s a special place.”
The 30-acre spread will certainly play host to a special event when it serves as the blast-off point for the 56 anglers taking part in the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22.
The site, which had been just a modest single-ramp launch for a half-decade, now features a three-lane concrete ramp that measures more than 280 feet long for historic periods of high and low water. It also has 166 parking spaces for trucks and boats, a 250-foot floating boat dock and 113 single spaces for spectators and co-anglers.
“When the Classic was here in 2008, officials from B.A.S.S. asked us all to give them a reason to come back,” Schell said. “That was one of our many missions with Green Pond Landing – to lure big-time events like the Bassmaster Classic. So you can imagine how thrilled we are to have the Classic going out of Green Pond.”
PCB injury settlement
The idea for the Green Pond project was born when state and local officials were deciding how best to use money awarded from a PCB injury settlement with Schlumberger Technology Corporation in 2006. PCB contamination has resulted in numerous fish-consumption advisories on Lake Hartwell for the past two decades.
A whopping $1.5 million of the $3.1 million price tag for Green Pond Landing came from the PCB settlement, while the rest came from hard-earned state and federal grants. Construction began in early 2013 and was scheduled to be completed by May 2014. But heavy rains, high lake levels and treacherous building conditions delayed completion until December 2014.
Schell began the process by simply gathering input from those with an interest in the project. One of the first suggestions came from members of the South Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation.
“When this all started years ago, we went down to the old original Green Pond Ramp site with Matt and walked around with him,” said Jason Turner, a Lake Hartwell tournament regular and one-time secretary of the South Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation. “They were planning to put the new ramp right down the shoreline from the old single ramp people had been using for so long. But we told them not to do that, because where it was located, people were just going to get beat to death by the winds when they were trying to launch their boats.
“We suggested building the ramp in a little different location that would be protected by the wind even if the lake was white-capping, and that’s exactly what they did.”
‘The Record push’
The design chores were handled by the South Carolina firms of Seamon, Whiteside and Associates and Applied Technology & Management.
Once the site was determined for the ramp, the arduous task of clearing space and pouring the concrete began. The ramp is comprised of four concrete sections, and three of those sections had to be poured on land and pushed into the water with heavy machinery after the concrete had time to set.
Two of the sections were 75 feet long and 49 feet wide, while the final piece was 60x49. The total weight of the concrete pushed into the water was more than 600 tons.
“There was a ramp built on West Point Lake in Troup County, Ga., that supposedly broke records with 324 tons of concrete pushed into the water,” Schell said. “If that’s the case, then I’d say we’re definitely in line for the record push. We’re certainly looking into that.”
People like Schell are concentrating firmly on the Classic for now, but the Green Pond Landing project is far from complete.
Plans are in the works to expand the ramp from three lanes to six, and the complex will eventually include an amphitheater specially equipped for on-site tournament weigh-ins.
The site opened to the public after a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late December – and though the weather has hardly been suitable for fishing or boating since then, Schell said the ramp has already been a big local draw.
“We’ve noticed a lot of single vehicles out there,” Schell said, laughing. “They’re not coming out there to fish or launch a boat. They just want to check things out. People are excited, and that’s exactly what we wanted to see.”
Many people still can’t believe the ramp is free to use, and some people are still pinching themselves in an effort to believe it exists at all.
“That day we walked around with Matt, I basically told him I didn’t believe it would ever happen,” Turner said. “I told him to prove me wrong, and they went and did it.”