OK. It’s a small claim to fame, but I’ll take it with a big fat grin. My family and I were the first ones in the water when swimming returned to Cheraw State Park May 25.
Everything about “Cheraw Beach” is not the same as it used to be. But plenty of things about it are the same, and some are even better.
The parking lot, for one thing, actually has plenty of shade now. When I was a child, most of those same oak trees were either sticks or not yet planted. It’s refreshing to see so many cars parked in those terraced spots again.
Although the grass is green and well kept, the sand-spurs are still there between the swimming area and the bath house. The fence, the ticket office and the lifeguards are all gone. But the cool streams coming up from the floor of the lake are still out there, making the water absolutely scrumptious on a hot afternoon.
It’s strange to look across the lake at an empty diving platform, as I still image watching people do flips from the high dive. But it’s nice just to be there, in the water that’s as brown as coffee.
Even the sign that once warned against alligators is gone. Oh, yeah, I said it. Don’t think the people that are actually in the water again haven’t mentioned that fear, whether it’s justified or not. In fact, there was a small stump I pulled out of the water that first day with a couple of embedded rocks that looked almost like toes … dead alligator toes, if your imagination is strong enough. I tossed it on the edge of the sand and had more fun than maybe I should have showing it to young swimmers.
But let’s face it, when it comes to alligators, even though we’re on the northern border, we do live in South Carolina. They should be more scared of us than we are of them. Right?
The beach area isn’t as wide as it used to be, but the 192 tons of sand recently hauled in give it a fresh look. Besides, the natural pitcher plants that have returned to that space, right of the swimming area, are a treasure as well.
There are no planes dragging banners through the air like there are at Myrtle Beach, but the occasional Great Heron that graces the air doesn’t seem to care whether you “Eat at Joe’s” or not.
Being a part of Cheraw State Park and its activities is a source of pride for me. It makes me happy to be spending the summer here, in a town where children collected pennies to purchase the original 700 acres for the park.
It makes me proud to be an American. It’s American ingenuity, after all, that turned Juniper Creek into Juniper Lake when it was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, just after the Great Depression. Cheraw State Park is a living legacy of The New Deal Program, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to implement jobs while addressing the country’s needs for conservation and recreation.
If you haven’t yet re-discovered your childhood at Cheraw Beach, maybe you should save some of that gas money for the coast this summer and do so.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, ext. 224, or by email at email@example.com.