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The improvement project announced previously by the City of Thomasville for Cherokee Lake Park is now officially underway, with the goal to fully return one of Thomasville’s most popular green spaces to the community in early 2018. Beginning this week, City crews began draining the lake, which is necessary so that repairs can be made to the dam.

“The dam has developed some holes, and there is seepage occurring from the lake,” said Jerry Pionessa, Assistant City Manager/City Engineer. “The dam is not a danger to public safety or to park users right now. We are taking proactive steps now to perform these repairs before the bridge structure is impacted.”

According to Pionessa, the work is being performed in a manner that will minimize disruption to park users. Throughout the project, the picnic pavilions and playground will remain open, as will some portions of the walking trail.

“During this first phase of construction, the trail will remain open in all areas so that park walkers may continue using the entire trail,” said Pionessa. “The fountain located in the lake will be removed temporarily while construction is ongoing, but it will be returned when all work is completed.”

The entire project will include many other improvements for the popular park, including a widened trail along the west side of the lake. This portion of the trail will eventually connect to the Community Trail that will cross Smith Avenue at Susie Way. Boards along the boardwalk sections will be replaced as needed, including any along the dock areas. A dock located on the west side will be extended, giving local fishing enthusiasts another area of the lake to enjoy. The fish habitats within the lake will also be improved. Before any work can begin, however, Cherokee Lake must be drained.

“Unfortunately, there is no other way to address the repairs needed at the dam and also provide some additional improvements to the lake’s fish habitats without draining it,” said Pionessa. “The lake will need to be as dry as possible before work can begin.”

While the lake is draining, fishing is strongly encouraged. “We’d encourage anyone who enjoys fishing to spend as much time doing so at Cherokee Lake as possible over the next month,” said Pionessa, adding that the lake will be restocked with fish once the project is complete.

Additional work at the park will continue into the fall once the lake has had adequate time to dry completely. Lauren Radford, Director of Engagement and Outreach, said there are a number of community sessions that are planned to help educate park users on the improvements.

“We will be hosting community walks and other opportunities later this summer in the park so that we can share information with citizens about this project,” said Radford. “It will be an excellent opportunity to ask questions and gain an understanding about what is included in this project and why it is necessary.”

Radford said that these public engagement sessions will be announced on the City’s website,, Facebook page, and the NextDoor app.

“The NextDoor app is another way we are working to keep our community informed of current projects,” said Radford. “To participate, residents should download the app on their tablet or smartphone and, once activated, they will receive updates that we send out using this technology.”