‘We just needed some water, and when it came, it came!’

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 5, 2008

Lake Forest lives again — courtesy of a two-year community effort capped off this week by Hurricane Gustav’s steady rain.

While most people don’t enjoy flash floods, homeowner association president Bobby Anderson said it was a sight worth watching when the neighborhood’s pond refilled.

“You could really see it coming up,” Anderson said. “We just needed some water, and when it came, it came!”

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Since a 2003 failure of an overflow pipe after a similar heavy rain, the scenic, 17-acre lake that centers homes in the northeast Warren County subdivision had been a dried-out, marshy pit.

After repeated attempts to get public help, the home-owners took on the project themselves, perpetuating a wildlife area at the same time. Now, with some of Gustav’s 10 inches of rain lapping past a row of long-unused backyard decks and piers, Anderson said the lake has reached its pre-2003 shoreline. Egrets and wood ducks glide and swim at depths more than 4 feet near Anderson’s property and about 25 feet near a 300-foot-wide dam on the lake’s eastern edge.

The water’s edge moved another 20 feet closer to homes this week alone, Anderson said, adding his weather-beaten lawn chairs just might get some use from the sudden deluge.

“We’ve filled it with bream and bass, some of them about four fingers long,” Anderson said.

Homeowners chipped in about $45,000 toward the effort since it organized in 2006, mainly through increased association dues, Anderson said, adding the rest was raised from adjacent neighborhoods or secured from bank loans. An additional driving force was to increase property values in the picturesque neighborhood and keep it attractive to potential homebuyers.

After a permit was secured from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, private engineers replaced horizontal and vertical pipes and added an emergency spillway to handle additional rain filling the lake. A portion of Lake Forest Drive atop the dam was resurfaced by county road crews.

Any measures against the lake overtaking too much property will be up to the residents, as only the subdivision’s main road is maintained by Warren County.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve done,” Anderson said.