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Bidder found for Gwen Lake restoration

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Gwen Lake in Columbia County has become a mess, but after years of neglect, it is set to get a makeover.

Homeowners near the lake say the eyesore needs to be restored and soon.

Four years ago if you had been sitting at the edge of Gwen Lake your legs would have been in the water. Now you can see it’s mostly overgrown and the water is drained away. Those who live in this area want their lake back and restored and Lake City officials say they finally have a plan to get that done."

A levy that broke in 2016 has drained most of the lake and city projects labeled as band-aid projects haven’t helped.

“It’s sad because it was such a beautiful place and people loved it and people from our county came and had their prom pictures taken here,” said Jane Mieras who lives right next to Gwen Lake. “It was a place people loved to come and now people don’t even come.”

Lake City now has a six-part master plan to restore the lake being paid for by state grants, although it was originally difficult to get anybody to bid on the project.

“We asked the state if we could combine the two because contractors were telling us the project wasn’t big enough to bid on,” said Lake City City Manager Joe Helfenberger. “So we combined them and recently the bids were opened a few days ago and we only got one bid.”

Helfenberger says he will negotiate that one bid which is a little over budget in the coming week and if it’s agreed upon, construction could start in less than 3 months.

Reports that there is also a sewage lake near the broken levy causing a bad smell are unfounded.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was out there,” said Helfenberger. “They did inspect it and didn’t find any raw sewage whatsoever going into it there’s no piping near there.”

The master plan is basically 4 phases of bank stabilization followed by clearing and dredging the lake and then reconstruction of the broken levy which is leaking and causing the lake to drain. The entire project will cost nearly 1.7 million dollars. Helfenberger says if they get the next grant approved which he believes they will, the lake should be back to its original glory in three to four years. Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.