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  • Whitewater area to open March 18

    Well… it’s finally here! The date for the whitewater area in Great Falls to open has been set and we are less than a month away from that long awaited day. The Long Bypass Reach, also known as the Long Channel, will open to the public on March 18, 2023. The Nitrolee Access Area off of U.S. 21 will open at the same time and experienced whitewater kayakers will be able to take that two-mile thrilling ride. For the time being, the Short By-Pass Reach (the Short Channel) will remain closed because there is still some construction that has to be completed for it to open. The opening for that channel will be the first weekend in May. This opening of the channel was first proposed nearly 20 years ago as the stakeholders in the Duke Energy relicensing process talked about the possibility of opening up the area for whitewater recreation. I was a part of that process and was amazed that something like that would even be considered. American Whitewater advocated for that possibility and by the time the Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement was signed in July 2006, the idea was going to become a reality. Very few people (although one or two from Duke did tell me it could be a long process) thought it would be nearly 17 years before the whitewater would be a reality. In the ensuing time, however, the first idea grew to be a major whitewater development and thanks to Duke Energy, this will be a special part of the Nature Based Tourism Initiative that the Great Falls Home Town Association started in 2000. The Nitrolee Access with it’s 100 parking places, an easy turn around and a restroom facility will be the first thing that visitors to the area will see. Down a short trail is the ruins of the nitrogen plant that James B. Duke and Williams States Lee put in to help use the electricity they were producing at the Great Falls Hydro plant after it’s opening in 1907. The process used was a rare form of producing nitrogen for fertilizer. There will be boards with photos that tell the story of the process around the one building that still stands from that industry. The whitewater is something that people need to be cautious about. The rapids in the long channel will be at least Class 2 and Class 3. The other day in talking with one of the experts in the field of whitewater kayaking, he said that the rapids could be a bit higher in the long bypass. Only experienced paddlers should be in either of the channels. These flows and rapids are NOT for the novice. The whitewater that makes up the Long Channel is just the first of the many outdoor recreation amenities we will have in Great Falls and it will probably be the most adventurous. Things are progressing towards having all the other recreational opportunities available. Earlier this month, South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism signed a lease agreement with Duke Energy to lease the islands in the Cedar Creek Reservoir (better known as Stumpy Pond) for use as a South Carolina State Park. It was an exciting day with a nice ceremony and people gathering to commemorate the signing as the official kickoff to the planning and development of the State Park on Dearborn Island. I was especially excited because I had been waiting for that lease to be signed since July 2006. With these developments, Duke will begin with the project slated for the next five years of the license. Construction of the recreation amenities were scheduled in five-year increments. Over the next five years the pedestrian bridge to Dearborn Island will be built, a canoe and kayak launch will go in near the new bridge giving access to Great Falls Reservoir and another canoe and kayak launch will go in at the old Mudcat Inn site which is just south of the Great Falls Dam. There will also be a fishing platform installed in the tailrace of Fishing Creek Dam. There are a lot of exciting things in store for Great Falls over the next few years. And this whitewater is just the first. I can hardly wait!

  • A life well lived

    Speedy Starnes was dedicated to Great Falls The first time I met Dr. H.C. “Speedy” Starnes was in 1992 when he was serving as the Interim Superintendent of Education for Chester County. I was a reporter and editor at the Chester News & Reporter and I covered Education and the Chester County School Board. I met him at the Career Center for some reason, I don’t remember why, and he sat down and we had a delightful conversation. I was more than nine years away from taking the job as the executive director of the Great Falls Home Town Association and little did I know just how well I would get to know Speedy. From that very first interview, my impression was a man of great humility but with a driven purpose. He cared greatly about his students in Great Falls and all the students and teachers across Chester County. It was evident as he talked about that interim job that he was taking on for a short time as the school district looked for another superintendent. Fast forward nine years later. I had moved from the newspaper to the Chester Downtown Development Association, written a book and worked briefly for Chester County. Speedy was one of the first people to greet me. By that time, he had been mayor of Great Falls for about three years and GFHTA had been focused on Nature Based Tourism for about a year. We had no idea how much time we would spend pushing the tourism initiative. Speedy spent so much of his life in dedication to the small textile town he adopted back in 1951 when he came here as a guidance counselor and ended up coaching football. He would regale stories of his early time here in Great Falls, living originally in one of the two mill executive houses on Dearborn Street (the one next to the current War Memorial Building.) He told me while living there, on the second floor, that he heard a noise in the basement. In that basement was a large safe which had an armored door and was always closed. That noise startled him, and he slowly descended the stairs and turned the corner where that safe was located. That heavy armored door was closed. It took him very little time to get back up the stairs. He found another place to live not long after that. In early 2003, he and I began a journey that would bring us closer to having the many areas of outdoor recreation that Great Falls is looking forward to today. Duke Energy began a stakeholder process that brought together people from across the Catawba/Wateree River basin to negotiate an agreement to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in connection with the license renewal. For three years, once a month or even more often, Speedy and I and a few others from Great Falls met with dozens of other stakeholders to hammer out the agreement. After that process, it still took nine years until the license was issued and another two years before things really got underway with the planning, design and finally the construction of the whitewater area, access areas and the trails. By that time Speedy was no longer mayor but he came by the office at least once a week to find out the status of things. As is the case with most of us, it gets harder to remember things as we get older. He didn’t always remember the details but he was extremely interested in what was going on. The pandemic hit and he had to stay in but at least once a week and usually twice he called for an update and to find out if there was anything he could do. In the past six or eight months the calls got fewer and his questions were usually the same ones he asked from the last time we talked. But he always ended our conversations with “I want to keep up with what’s going on. You call me if there is anything I can do.” I got word early Sunday morning that he had passed away peacefully. His beloved Jeanette was nearby and his family as well. Speedy Starnes dedicated his life to Great Falls. Much of what is happening to revitalize this lovely little former mill town is due to that dedication. He will be truly missed by all who loved him – including me.

  • Commerce in Great Falls 100 years ago

    Sydney J. Harris, the syndicated newspaper columnist from Chicago, used to write a periodic feature called “Things I Learned En Route to Looking Up Other Things.” So here is something I came across while looking up “other things” and I found it to be quite interesting. In a special section of The Chester News, dated Aug. 1, 1923, there was a headline about a spectacular event: Two Big Bargain Days in Great Falls August, 3rd-4th Merchants of Great Falls Cooperate for Greatest Bargain Event in the History of the Town. The special section was called The Great Falls Tribune and was a six-page full size addition to the regular Chester News. I’m not sure if this was done more than one year but it was a big event in 1923. The sub headline goes on to read: “Thousands of Bargains to be Offered to People of the Community – Big Advertisements in this Issue Tell of Wonderful Goods and Prices Offered.” In 1923, there were at least a dozen retail establishments in Great Falls, as well as other businesses and services. In addition to the advertisements there were some news stories, some tidbits about people in the community, a few obituaries and church news. The majority of the publication, however, was advertisements of what would be offered during “Dollar Days” in Great Falls. There was an ad for Republic Cotton Mills Department Store featuring such items as $1.50 Men’s Shirts, extra good madras, stripes for only $1.00- and .75-Men’s Blue Chambray work shirts, good values 2 for $1.00. For the ladies there were, .35 Dress Gingham, full 32 inches, extra fine combed gingham check, stripes and solid, 4 for $1.00. And $1.00 off all Ladies’ shoes from $4.00 and up. They also included Luzianne Coffee, canned North Carolina apples and Baker Coconut anywhere from 5 lbs. to 10 cans, all for $1.00. The advertisements other than Republic Mills Department Store included Republic Pharmacy which had a free giveaway of phonograph records and record albums with every $3 purchase. They were the headquarters for High Boy Ice Cream and Good Drinks! During “Dollar Days” the Republic Theatre, “The Home of Good Pictures” was running a special offer on Friday for any seat in the house, adults 15 cents and children 5 cents. The feature was “Queen of Sheba” – a ten reel Super Spectacular Production of Ancient Judea. “The Greatest Biblical Story Ever Picturized – at the cheapest admission ever offered in the state.” A little research on “Queen of Sheba” shows that it was actually a 9-reel silent drama, produced by Fox Studios, about King Solomon and Queen of Sheba’s ill-fated romance starring Betty Blythe as the Queen and Fritz Leiber, Sr. as King Solomon. The average silent reel was about 11 minutes, so this flick was a little more than an hour and a half long. The complete film probably no longer exists because of a 1937 fire at the Fox film vault in New Jersey but there is a 17-second fragment discovered in 2011. One of the notable things about this film was the risqué costumes, which is evidenced by the few stills that exist. This was before there was a great deal of strict censorship or the film code era which came about in around 1930. The ad said there were continuous performances at Republic Theatre from 2:30 until 11:00 p.m. Other ads include Clark-Plyler Furniture Co., H.J. Francis Department Store and Sam’s Place, Sam Kilgo, Proprietor; and Ehrlich’s 5 and 10c Store. There were several ads for the Dearborn Inn Hotel restaurant, one for Sanitary Café, Pete Bratsos, proprietor; and one for the Great Falls Candy Kitchen which featured a complete line of candies, a fine line of fruits , cigars, etc. These are just a few of the advertisements and bargains that were to be had at the Great Falls Spectacular. The newspaper encourage everyone in the surrounding area to head to the town on that Friday and Saturday. This newspaper was accessed through Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections at Winthrop University’s Digital Commons. It is a glimpse of what Great Falls was like almost 100 years ago. I could not find any kind of story or follow up as to whether the “Dollar Days” was a success or not, but it seemed to be a well-planned, coordinated event designed to focus on the business of Great Falls in 1923. Just something I found “enroute to looking up other things.”

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Other Pages (31)

  • Economic Development | Great Falls Home Town Association

    S E A R C H EVENTS 1. Dec. 12, 2022 B 1a. May 30, 2019 31. Dec. 27, 2022 1. Dec. 12, 2022 B 1/33 Long Channel will open to the public on March 18 with the recreation flows running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Subscribe to our site to stay up to date on events and happenings in Great Falls! Email Join Thanks for subscribing! STATE PARK a new state park on the islands in the Cedar Creek Reservoir (Stumpy Pond) was established in the Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement for the Catawba-Wateree system. license for Catawba-Wateree System issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Recreation Management Plan updated and SCPRT begins general Master Plan for State Park on Dearborn Island. General map of development on Dearborn Island released by SCPRT More Details 2006 2015 2017 2018 WHITEWATER 1. 2003 – GFHTA and Town of Great Falls chosen as Stakeholders in Duke Energy process for relicensing of the Catawba-Wateree Hydro System 2. 2003-2006 – met monthly with stakeholders from both Carolinas to develop a Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement (CRA). 3. 2006 – CRA was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 4. 2008 – existing license expired and was renewed annually until license was issued by FERC. More Details PARTNERSHIPS + + + +


    COMMUNITY EVENT CALENDAR SUBMIT AN EVENT Don't see a local event listed on our calendar? Submit it below. Submit an Event First Name Email Last Name Event Details SUMBIT EVENT Thank you!

  • Riversweep | Great Falls Home Town Association | Great Falls

    RIVERSWEEP That time of year is here again--time to clean up the Catawba!! On November 12 Great Falls Hometown Association will be sweeping the river in Great Falls, SC. The Great Falls Hometown Association is raffling off to a lucky volunteer a brand new Perception Tribe 11.5 Kayak, PFD and Paddle from Outdoor Supply in Hickory NC and several gift cards to be raffled off to a lucky volunteer! For more information call Mike Vaughn at 803-899-2206 ​ Please print, fill out and bring the waiver with you on November 12 RIVERSWEEP WAIVER

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