Free fishing offered Saturday at park

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

September 17, 2013

A familiar image from “The Andy Griffith Show” is that of Andy and Opie heading to the fishing hole, which is inspiring a “Take Me Fishing” event Saturday in Mount Airy.

It offers a chance for people of all ages, including the disabled, to fish for free in a picturesque setting: Tumbling Rock Reservoir at the city’s Westwood Park. Gear and bait also will be provided to those lacking them, and one won’t even need a fishing license to throw in his or her line at the pond that will be stocked on the morning of the event.

It is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will be held rain or shine. More than 100 people attended in 2012.

The community fishing day is now in its fifth year, and being staged for the second-straight year by the Woman’s League of Mount Airy in partnership with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the city parks and recreation division.

Saturday’s fishing extravaganza is designed to accomplish multiple goals, according to Lisa Goodin, a member of the Woman’s League of Mount Airy who is one of the organizers of the gathering.

“The art of fishing is dying,” Goodin said Monday of one.

Another concern reflects a mission of the 16-year-old club related to conservation of natural resources, which it believes can be partly accomplished by getting people to visit facilities such as Tumbling Rock Reservoir, located off Galax Trail.

“The purpose of that is to introduce young people and people in general, individuals and families, to nature,” agreed Catrina Alexander, city parks and recreation director.

This could lead to a desire to experience other locations and hopefully gain an appreciation for nature along the way, Alexander added Monday. “We have a lot of resources in this area that are available to people,” she said, mentioning the Ararat River and greenway and the Blue Ridge Parkway as examples.

The parks and recreation director said there are some local residents who might not even know that Tumbling Rock Reservoir exists. It originally was built in the 1920s to provide water for the municipality, but eventually abandoned.

After decades of neglect, officials decided to refurbish the old reservoir site, which led to it becoming a public fishing area in 2007. A spacious pier enhances the fishing experience there.

Family Time

Goodin said Saturday’s gathering further offers a rare chance for families to get outdoors, away from the computers or video games, and attain a special brand of fun that fishing provides.

“It’s a healthy family activity — something that families can do together,” she said of that pastime. “It doesn’t cost a lot of money.”

Saturday’s event is designed to make the fishing experience as easy as possible, including the no license requirement of which participants can take advantage.

Alexander said those with their own fishing gear and bait are free to bring them along, but these will be available to others at the site for free.

She said many disabled persons attend the annual community fishing day, boosted by the ease of access Tumbling Rock Reservoir provides, which is not always the case on the side of streams, ponds or lakes.

“It is handicapped-friendly,” Alexander said of the site that conforms to Americans With Disabilities Act specifications. That includes being able to drive almost up to the water’s edge, with non-disabled persons required to park at the top of the hill and walk down to the fishing area.

Lots of prizes, donated by local businesses, are to be given away Saturday.

Members of the Woman’s League of Mount Airy will be selling raffle tickets and snacks, with the proceeds to be used for community projects, Goodin said.

In addition to conservation, the group — a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Carolina — is involved with domestic-violence prevention, literacy programs and other causes.

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