History of Forest Lake
HISTORY OF FOREST LAKE
Envision yourself on your dock at the end of the day enjoying the sunset, watching the Kingfisher setting up for his evening plunge, or perhaps untying the boat from your dock before your evening cruise. You may want to reflect at the events that got you here. You may reflect on your day at work, or the next days events. But it is more likely that you will choose not to reflect anything more than the tranquility that comes with these surroundings.
Lee Daugherty, a Forest Lake resident
Welcome to Forest Lake! Here is a bit of our history.
In the early 1960’s several Florence County land owners including Young, Jeffords, Parrott, Bateman, Ward, Hepburn and others got together and created a lake by damming the flow of Middle Swamp –an un- navigatable stream running through . A name for the lake was suggested by Ed Young and it was agreed to call it Forest Lake . The property was about six miles outside the city limits and the dam flooded about 200 acres. This area was at that time considered more of a destination rather than a home. It was very rural. It continued primarily as a sportsman’s retreat offering excellent fishing and hunting opportunities. Very few homes existed in this part of Florence County at the time. The few that were built in Forest Lake as permanent residences had to negotiate primitive dirt roads and poor drainage.
The newly created lake was very rustic and barely navigable due to the forestation that was left within the flooded area.The only property that was actively sold at the time was west of Knollwood Road –the road that crosses the lake connecting Cashua Drive > to Alligator Road . Property owners on the east side decided not to become part of any Forest Lake subdivision and did not participate in the initial developing. Mr. Jeffords and Mr. Young formed a development company called “Forest Lake of Florence, Inc.” and began actively selling lots on the west side. Lots were sold at prices ranging from $1,500 to $3,000. This is in sharp comparison to some recent sales of lakefront lots in Forest Lakes Shores (on the east side) for $140,000!
the fishing became legendary thanks to stocking efforts and upkeep of the waters. Trophy largemouth bass, bream, crappie and several other game fish soon multiplied. Forest Lake actually holds claim to a world record recognized by the International Game Fish Association. The record is for the American Bowfin landed by the late Robert Harmon in 1980. >While Forest Lake can claim no further world records, it consistently produces largemouth bass over ten pounds and breams over two pounds. Anglers find success from boats and from docks alike.
While the fishing tradition has continued since the creation of the lake, the residents decided that the waterfowl hunting posed a danger to residents and disturbed the tranquility of the peaceful lake. The ecosystem was truly developing beyond expectations, including nesting bald eagles and ospreys. It became clear that action was needed to protect the habitat. Interested residents, led by Jeffords (wife of founder J. Foster Jeffords) successfully campaigned to make Forest Lake a wildlife sanctuary. A public law was passed in 1980 so declaring Forest Lake to be a sanctuary. The discharging of firearms was no longer allowed.
Concerned residents later formed a homeowner’s association and further committed to stewardship of the lake by building permanent boat ramps and prohibiting electric motors on boats. The lake community also continued to mature as the city began swelling westward. In the early 1970’s, single family homes emerged along both banks of the lake. Interstate Highway 95 came through this end of Florence in the early 1980’s further increasing interest in this area.Homes at this time ranged from resort—vacation type structures to more conventional traditional building styles. By the early 1980’s it became clear that the lake was headed towards more upscale construction and lifestyle. Homes began to be built in size from 1800 square feet to over 5000 square feet.
A major dam break occurred in August 1991 draining the lake completely. The lake remained dry for over six months. The needed funds for repair were obtained through special assessments to the homeowners and through litigation with a negligent contractor. An easement for permanent access to the dam was also obtained for making the necessary repairs. Several photographs are available showing the almost totally dry lakebed. The dam was repaired and the lake was re-stocked and gradually the lake began to flourish.
With the confidence of a safe dam, development took off once again. It spread to areas surrounding the lake and various new communities were created. They are now know as Forest Lake South, Forest Lake West, Waterford , Mallard Pointe and more recently Forest Lake Pointe. These sub-divisions cemented the direction of the lake community forever.
During the maturing process of the lake as an ecosystem it suffered through an issue that plagues most every body of water in South Carolina –proliferation of aquatic weeds and grasses. The Forest Lake Homeowner’s Association jumped into action and rallied the support of members and residents and began a regular program of spraying and moving mounds of vegetation. The problem was further remedied by the addition of voracious grass carp were introduced with the assistance of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The effects of these efforts were felt immediately as evidenced by the number of new recreational boats that now pervade the lake. Most of the boats on the lake now, in sharp contrast to forty years ago, rarely engage in fishing. Instead, most of today’s boaters just enjoy the tranquility of sunset cruises or visiting friend’s dockside.
The last piece of the lake’s history remained missing until the spring of 2003 when the property on the southeast corner of the lake was sold. It was original property owned by the Ratliff’s and was sold to a Forest Lake resident, Phillip Lowe for development. This would write the last chapter of a story that began over forty years ago. The southeast section of the lake that remained undeveloped is now becoming a planned community with strict covenants and restrictions and a unique “footprint”. Much of the land was leveled off and three large canals were dug to provide for even more waterfront property. The development is named “ Forest Lake Shores ” and an additional 62 homes are planned --16 of which are lakefront and 25 “canal-front”. The development has also chosen to annex itself into the City of Florence to take advantage of additional amenities offered by the city.
Another “sister” community is planned by a local developer beginning sometime in 2005. It will be called “The Reserve at Forest Lake”. No lots border on the lake, although storm water does run into the lake through several other lots on the lake owned by the developer. Sixty-two (62) homes are planned with some commercial activity planned for the Cashua Drive portion.
Forest Lake is obviously the “draw” for all of the communities that have chosen to locate here. The serenity is appreciated by all who enter our space –one of the most beautiful, unspoiled bodies of water in South Carolina
Frank M. McIntyre, FLHA Historian