The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Outdoors

May 22, 2012

Safety concerns close Somerset County swimming area

SOMERSET — The swimming beach at Kooser Lake in Kooser State Park in Somerset County will be closed indefinitely due to unsafe conditions related to too much sedimentation and algae, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said today.

“Our first priority is the safety of our visitors,” DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan said in a release. “DCNR is working diligently with other public and private partners to develop an action plan for addressing runoff and amount of nutrients in the watershed that includes Kooser Run and Kooser Lake in the park. We feel it is important to be proactive addressing the short-term public safety and long-range water-quality issues in this critical Laurel Highlands watershed.”

Allan noted that the swimming area, typically 4 to 5 feet of water, is as low as 18 inches in some spots. Also, algae blooms related to high levels of nutrients, typically uncommon in the waters in a forested area, have increased in volume and are occurring year-round.

Fishing will continue to be allowed on the 4-acre lake. Fish caught at the lake can be eaten. All other outdoor recreation activities and facilities in the park will remain unaffected and open to visitors.

The 250-acre Kooser State Park is mostly forested, mountainous terrain and is bordered in part by Forbes State Forest. Overnight accommodations include 35 campsites and nine cabins. About 100,000 people visit the park annually.

Park visitors who have reservations are being notified of the closure of the swimming area; are being provided with information about alternate swimming options at nearby Laurel Hill Lake at Laurel Hill State Park; and are being offered the opportunity to change or cancel their reservations.

Funding permitting, DCNR intends to have the lake dredged shortly after Labor Day as a first step to improve conditions within the watershed and Kooser Lake. New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co., Inc., a private-sector neighbor and partner in the watershed, has agreed to assist DCNR with the removal of sediments in the lake.

Find more information about Kooser and any other Pennsylvania state park online at www.visitPAParks.com.

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