Lake Paul A. Wallace: Quite the catch
By John Clayton
Not every day at Lake Paul A. Wallace involves music and fireworks, but the ones that do certainly draw a crowd.
The lake is home to the annual Beach Blast in August, a daylong festival that ends with a concert on “the beach,” and a yearly Fourth of July fireworks display and holiday celebration. The two events draw thousands of people from Marlboro County and beyond.
“For us, it’s one of our gems,” Sully Blair, chairman of the Lake Paul A. Wallace Authority, says of the lake. “It’s an area that provides our citizens with various recreational activities — boating, swimming, fishing, running and walking. It offers a number of different options for the people of our community.”
Events, Big and Small
The Beach Blast, scheduled for Aug. 24, is in its 18th year and should draw another large crowd to the lakeshore. The daylong, festival-style event starts at about noon and ends with a concert featuring regional musical acts around 11 p.m. “We work hard for both of those events,” Blair says. “But it’s worth the hard work to see the community enjoying this incredible asset.”
The other days of the year are quieter on the lake, but there is still activity involving local anglers and other residents who make Lake Wallace part of their routines. “A lot of people go and start their day off there, walking or running or walking their dogs,” says Brittany Jones, secretary of the Lake Paul A. Wallace Board and assistant director of tourism, parks and recreation for the City of Bennettsville. “Or they may end their day there, going for a run or a walk.”
The lake was built in the 1950s, and recent projects have revolved around improvements to its 3.2-mile walking trail and to the popular beach area, which is the lake’s swimming hole and gathering place. “We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from the community about our projects. We want to return it to its glory,” Jones says.
The business and civic communities have combined to support needed projects. The Rotary Club of Bennettsville holds regular cleanup days, the local Boy Scout troop routinely works on projects around the lake, and the Marlboro Electric Cooperative has adopted a walking trail. “The community rallies around it,” Jones says. “Everybody wants to be a part of things going on out at the lake.”
Jones says money has also come from state and other grants to help fund beautification projects, revamped entryways and major improvements near the beach, including a shelter and plans for outdoor showers and restrooms. Blair says there are also plans for improved access to the beach area for the handicapped that will comply with the American Disabilities Act.
“A lot of credit goes to our local delegation, as well,” Blair says. “Without their support, there wouldn’t be a lake authority, and we wouldn’t have the funding to do anything.”
The local legislative delegation includes state Sens. Gerald Malloy and Kent Williams and state Reps. Jackie Hayes and Patricia Moore Henegan.
Last year, the Pee Dee Kayak Anglers arrived at Lake Paul Wallace for a relaxing day of tournament fishing. Jones says it’s the first such tournament on the lake in recent memory, but hopefully not the last. Around 30 fishermen competed in the tournament, and she says many of them brought their children, who fished on the lake near Jack’s Island. “It was a great event,” Jones says. “Those are the types of things we want to see more and more here.”
Blair says Lake Wallace is the only such lake around Bennettsville offering the combination of recreation activities for residents and visitors. “It is a draw for the surrounding communities,” he says. “We draw people from Cheraw, North Carolina, Dillon and Florence. It draws people here, and we get the benefit of them spending their money here in our community. We want to see it develop so that it’s more of an economic driver.”