Feeling the Power of Percy Priest

Doug Davis, The Rutherford Courier, April 22, 2004

Area gave up 16,500 acres for fed project

J. Percy Priest Lake offers bountiful recreational opportunities for residents of Rutherford County and visitors to the area.

“The total visits to the lake in 2003, including areas managed by concessionaires or the state park was 6.3 million”, said Todd Yann, resource manager for Percy Priest Lake.  “The economic impact of visitors when they came to recreate was $150 million.”

Percy Priest land and lake property is in Rutherford, Davidson and Wilson Counties.  Boaters, anglers, campers and day users can find ample areas on Rutherford County for leisure activities.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers property includes a day use area with picnic tables and a boat ramp at Hurricane Creek, near LaVergne off Stones River Road.  Poole Knobs of Jones Mill Road in LaVergne includes camp sites with electric and water hookups, a campground and a boat ramp.

Fate Sanders day use area has a boat ramp and picnic areas off Weakley Lane.

Lamar Hill and Stewart Creek have boat ramps.  Fall Creek has a boat ramp and parking area off Lamar Road.

Jefferson Springs day use area off Jefferson Pike has picnic sites, restrooms and a boat ramp.

West Fork day use area has a boat ramp off Enon Springs Road.

East Fork day use area has a picnic area and a day use area off Buckeye Bottom Road.  Mona off West Jefferson Pike has a boat ramp.

“I boat in (Percy Priest Lake).  My family enjoys it all the time” says Ron Weaver of LaVergne.  “We swim and fish off the pontoon boat.  We like to catch catfish and bass.  I think the lake brings people in (bass tournaments and camping around the lake).”

Fate Sanders Marina sells hunting and fishing licenses, live bait and rents pontoon boats and small, flat-bottom fishing boats.

“It seems like traffic has increased, and since our number of slips have expanded it seems like more want to use it” said Fate Sanders manager Brandon Hunter.

The marina is one of several privately run on the lake and the only one in Rutherford County.  It has approximately 300 boat slips after additions over the last six years.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency operates a Wildlife Management Area which includes the 14,200 acre lake and, according to Army Corps information, between 8,200 and 8,500 acres around the lake.  TWRA is also responsible for boating safety on the lake.

“Unit I (1,320 acres per TWRA) is a field trial area for retriever dogs, bird dogs and rabbit dogs,” said region manager Steve Patrick.  “We also allow archery hunting for deer and turkey on Unit I and quail hunting for young people 16 and under certain times of the year.”

Patrick said Unit II (12,700 acres) of the WMA is open to statewide hunting seasons.

“Right now we have turkey hunting going on there,” he said.  “It gets quit a bit of use, from quail to deer to turkey hunters.”

Jason and Bryan Tria of Smyrna stopped by Ed’s Bait Shop on Florence Road one Saturday this month to check recent photos of turkeys bagged in the area.  They were in camouflage attire and enjoy hunting on the TWRA-managed area.

“I have lived here for six years and this is where we come to hunt” Jason Tria said.

Patrick said the lake has a great fishery with a little bit of everything.  Largemouth and smallmouth bass are particularly popular catches he said.

David Phillips and his father Shelah, were pulling a bass boat toward the lake.  They enjoy smallmouth bass fishing and live near the lake, even though part of the family’s property was purchased by the Army Corp for Percy Priest and is now leased to others to farm.

Tim Segars from Rockvale stopped by Ed’s Bait Shop pulling a pontoon boat.  He prefers crappie fishing.

“It’s a fisherman’s paradise, ” said Ken Clarke from Wilson County.

The town of Smyrna recently leased Gregory Mill from the Army Corps of Engineers.  LaVergne wants to get in the action.

“We are putting together a proposal for the Corps  now for a greenway and some low-impact development” said Robin Grubb, director of the LaVergne Parks and Recreation Department.  “We could present a proposal within the next year.”

Nature trails, a nature center, playground may be developed if LaVergne can work out an agreement with the Corps of Engineers.  Grubb feels there is plenty of Army Corp property to accommodate people with various interests.

“It’s given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people., ” Ed Messer of Smyrna said.

Messer owns Ed’s Bait Shop and said the majority of his business used to come people going to the lake, but now Nissan and residents in the area account for at least half of his business.

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