One Man’s Story of a Local Lake

semmes 2015 Spring Newsletter

Atas Lake rainbowby Tom Moore

Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. is based inland on the Central Coast in Atascadero California. Some of Atascadero’s best Tom Mooreknown geographical attributes are that it is exactly half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is close to Morro Bay and is the gateway to the Paso Robles wine region.

Atas. Lake 1962

Atascadero Lake 1962

A little known fact about Atascadero, it sometimes has a very nice little lake. The Atascadero Lake began as a swampy region in the early twentieth century. A local visionary named E.G. Lewis figured out how he could sell plenty of real estate. So, he built a dam, let the lake fill with rain water, took photographs, and marketed them to a nation that wished to share his version of the American Dream.

When it has water in it, Atascadero Lake is a serene place with its beautiful park and walking trails. Over time the Army Corps of Engineers devised a way to fill the lake with water from the adjacent Atascadero Creek (meaning “place of much water” or “mud-hole,” depending on who you ask). The creek is seasonal, but runs pretty consistently. In the old days locals used to water-ski, fish and swim there. But, over time it became polluted. This was mostly blamed on the “outflow” of local animal species, including dogs and birds. This recent California drought has offered a chance for the lake to be dredged (as it was in the early 1960’s), with bulldozers and dump trucks.

Atascadero Lake is now ready to return to its former glory. Soon it will be the backdrop for the new bandstand, our lovely park, the Veteran’s Memorial, and the Charles Paddock Zoo. The Lake will be the centerpiece for the perimeter walkway, hosting parents strolling babies and children, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, lovers and a small contingent of our homeless people.

All it needs is water.

We in the West all need water, I’m sure this is not nAtas Lake currentews to anyone. A local group, The Friends of Atascadero Lake has drilled a well to assist in recharging water lost through evaporation. That water will be piped into the lake making up for evaporation lost during the summer.

Wait a minute! Some folks ask, “Can’t that water be used for something more helpful than filling a recreational facility?” The answer is, “Probably not.” Much of the water that flows into Atascadero Lake actually cycles back into our local aquifer. A fast-moving underground stream originating from the Sierras is this water’s source. After it passes through Atascadero, the next place this stream surfaces is under the Pacific Ocean outside of Monterey, California.

Personally, in my 20 years here, I’ve seen the lake water change colors from clear to black, and then from brown to green to orange. I hope that the efforts of the Friends of Atascadero Lake will help keep it an important part of the community for future generations.

Note: The opinions stated here are strictly my own and not necessarily the opinion of Semmes and Co. Builders, Inc.

(And, well the facts stated here might also not be facts.)

Atas Lake clouds