Vicki Gardner. Courtesy of Smith Mountain Lake Center.

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Smith Mountain Lake Center is 70% of way to fund-raising goal

Vicki Gardner, president of the Smith Mountain Lake Center, Inc. Board of Directors, has announced that the organization has raised approximately 70 percent of the funds needed to purchase the vacant Grand Home Furnishings building at Westlake Corner.

SML Center, Inc. is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that wants to acquire the 40,000-square-foot building and convert it into a multi-purpose center for education, arts, entertainment, private events, business, tourism and community hang-out spaces.

Gardner said the funding status reflects positive community response to the “Grand Plan.”

“This is the third attempt to create a community center at the lake, but the first that has a significant probability of happening,” Gardner said in a statement. “That’s because this plan involves purchasing an existing, well-suited building rather than starting from scratch on undeveloped land.”

Now the board is turning to the SML community for the last leg of purchase price funding, plus cash for Phase 1 improvements required for occupancy.

SML Center Board members are eager to meet with individuals interested in naming rights and dedication opportunities, which start at $10,000.

More information and a secure online donation form can be found at Those interested in setting up an in-person or virtual meeting may contact Gardner at 540-529-7733 or

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Appalachian Power warns water levels below dams may rise rapidly

Appalachian Power wants boaters, kayakers, tubers, and other recreational users downstream of Claytor and Leesville dams to know water levels on the New and Roanoke rivers could rise rapidly starting Wednesday, Aug. 3, and continue to fluctuate throughout the week.

The National Weather Service is calling for high temperatures and PJM, the independent regional transmission organization that manages the electric grid in 13 states, has notified Appalachian Power it may need to increase power generation at its hydroelectric plants to maintain the reliability of the regional electric grid if called upon to do so, according to a release from Appalachian.

Below Claytor Dam, water levels could increase up to two feet in a matter of minutes. Water levels below Leesville Dam could increase as much as eight feet over a seven-hour period. Those considering recreating on the rivers should monitor AEP’s website for additional information and follow us on Smith Mountain or Claytor Facebook pages for updates.

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Saint Mary’s River Trail in Augusta to be closed interimittently

The USDA Forest Service, in partnership with Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), will be working to stabilize and restore sections of the Saint Mary’s River trail (Forest Trail #500) in Saint Mary’s Wilderness in Augusta County. The 1.3-mile trail section from the trailhead at the parking lot to the intersection with the Saint Mary’s Gorge trail Forest Trail #500B) will be intermittently closed for public and worker safety during the trail work in August and September.

The tentative dates of closure are:

  • August 3-4
  • August 8-12
  • August 24-31
  • September 7-14
  • September 21-28

Visitors may still access fishing opportunities at the Saint Mary’s River trailhead up to the point of trail work, less than one-half mile from the parking lot. Visitors to Saint Mary’s Wilderness will be able to access the area from Mine Bank Creek trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cellar Mountain trailhead on the Coal Road (Forest Service Road #42), and from Bald Mountain Road (Jeep Trail – Forest Service Road #162). Visitors can continue to access Saint Mary’s Falls via the Mine Bank Creek trail, a 9-mile round-trip hike. Visitors should be prepared for a more strenuous hike when following this route.

Trail work will focus on repairing damage caused by remnant hurricane storms. Trail repair work will include moving large rocks by cable hoist to stabilize undermined trail sections to protect against future highwater events. Project work is expected to continue into calendar year 2023 and additional closure dates may be announced.

“I appreciate everyone’s patience during these temporary closures as we work to address much needed repairs in this special place,” said District Ranger Lauren Stull. “We are fortunate to be able to work with our partner, SAWS, to improve visitor experiences on the trail and protect the trail along the St. Mary’s River.”

For more information on these closures please contact the Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger District at (540) 291-2188.