It was a night that many people had been working toward the last eight years, but Sept. 5 celebrated the end of the Central Lake Project, the largest project in Jones County Conservation Department’s history.

The project included 12,000 tons of rock, 220 fish habitats and 70 trees, many of which were reutilized elm trees that were used to help construct the habitats. Conservation Director Brad Mormann said the winter during which all the materials were brought was the busiest on record, as folks flocked to the park to watch the progress.

That enthusiasm held over the summer, with Mormann saying his staff repeatedly said over the course of the summer that this was the busiest the park had been in quite a while.

“That was the greatest evidence to all of us that this project really turned out well, and the public seemed to be enjoying it,” Mormann said.

The project would not have been possible without all of the support it got from the public, including the Pearson family, who donated some of the land necessary to get things moving. That support is what stood out to the Department of Natural Resources’ George Antoniou, with the lake restoration program. He said “above and beyond” items, like benches, were made possible through the community’s support.

“We rarely see that kind of outpouring of grants, from…big donors, all the way down to your individual donors,” he said. “It really, to me, sets the bar for future projects for us in terms of what can be accomplished when people work together.”

Dave Tabor, with the Jones County Conservation Board of Directors, thanked all the stakeholders that made the project possible, including the Pearsons, and said he hoped those in attendance appreciated the gem they had.

“The park that you’re standing in right now was always a diamond, but after all the work and cooperation, I hope it’s going to shine a little brighter. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to keep that shine on for many years to come,” he said.

After the speakers were finished, the official ribbon-cutting was held. Following that, there were a myriad of conservation activities around the park, including: kids activities, Music in the Park from The Real Ridgerunners, a display of things taken out of the lake when it was drained and a presentation on the fish that now inhabit the lake.

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