Although it has been a source of outdoor entertainment for 65 years, Hardin County Sportsman Lake in Elizabethtown is still considered “Hardin County’s best kept secret”.
Many keepsakes have been created on the members-only lake and many members have made their home in the closed area. Melinda Langley, who is the director of the community pool, said some of her earliest fondest memories were by the lake.
As part of a growing family, Langley remembers swimming in the lake and fishing with his siblings. She said she rejoined four years ago to find those fond memories.
âI swim everyday and love it because it’s a bit out in the country and it’s so peaceful,â she said.
Bob Hicks, board member for Hardin County Sportsman Lake, compares the lake scenery to the setting for the 1981 family drama film “On Golden Pond”.
“They could have filmed it there,” he said.
The origins of the lake can be traced back to March 1956, when a group of prominent business owners met at the Hardin County courthouse and discussed the possibility of creating a man-made lake for fishing. As a result of the meeting, immediate plans were made and a nine-person board of directors was formed, which then elected a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer.
Later that year, Hardin County Sportsman Lake Inc. was licensed as a non-profit organization, 90 acres of land for the lake were purchased, and earthworks on a dam and spillway were completed. by Ed Weller of Hodgenville. The following year, the lake was filled with fish by the Kentucky Conservation Department and a clubhouse was built on site.
In the late 1960s, a swimming pool was built after swimming in the lake was banned due to sanitary rules. The pool has a certified lifeguard and swimming lessons are offered.
The governance structure and infrastructure of the lake have remained constant over the years. Although many improvements have been made, the clubhouse and pool remain, the board of directors still consists of nine members and the same elected leadership positions remain. James Kelly is currently President.
Cliff Horn joined the lake in 1977 and has served on the board since 1986. He said he was the oldest and longest serving member of the board.
âI can’t leave the set,â he joked. “I think I’m going to have to die to get off the set.”
About 60 families live on the premises and two lots are under development, Horn said. He said almost all of the properties on the premises are the members’ primary residence.
The lake is made up of 35 acres and contains bass, bluegill, crappie, red sunfish, catfish, and grass carp. A state fishing license is required to fish at the lake and daily limits are in place.
There are five boat storage areas around the lake for non-motorized fishing boats and two boat launching ramps are available. Many members also practice kayaking, canoeing and pedal boating. Bird watching is also a popular activity at the lake, with species such as eastern redbirds, green herons, mallards, swans, and bluebirds.
Two sheltered pavilions, picnic tables scattered around. several grill areas and play areas are also available. The club house, swimming pool and pavilions can be rented for private events.
While there have been many annual community events at the lake over the years, the July 4th Lake event has always been held. This year, the event included a large fireworks display, a fishing tournament and door prizes. More than 150 families showed up and a 12-foot trailer filled with fireworks was used during the festivities, Horn said.
“We shot forever,” he said of the fireworks display. “It probably lasted 45 minutes.”
The roganization started with around 200 members and there are now around 350. Membership peaked at over 600 in the 1990s, according to Horn. Despite COVID-19, the lake was able to gain 30 new members last year.
Langley said Lake hopes to recruit new members to bring back some of the community events of the past, such as Easter egg hunts, chili dinners, scavenger hunts and a Christmas program.
âWe hope to bring back a lot of things that we had in the past once we have more people involved,â she said.
The total fee for the first year of membership is $ 350 and members must then pay an annual membership fee of $ 150.
While the lake is only available to members, members can invite guests to the venue. There is a $ 5 charge for guest fishing.
For more information, visit bit.ly/3yxxJGf or call 270-317-2144.
Andrew Critchelow can be contacted at 270-505-1413 or firstname.lastname@example.org.