On April 25, 2023, a gathering was held to celebrate 50 years at South Cove County Park.
The park was first leased to Oconee County on April 25, 1973, by Duke Power Company. This lease was significant as it offered the public access to the newly developed Lake Keowee project. Now 50 years later, those forward-thinking decisions have benefited generations of people seeking outdoor recreation.
It takes an army
During the birthday celebration, Oconee County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Phil Shirley recognized the parks “pioneers” and spoke about the importance of partnerships between departments within Oconee County government. These partnerships make the park such a tremendous asset to the community and enable South Cove to serve 150,000 people each year. The Roads and Bridges Department is vital as they build and maintain roads throughout the park and. A few years ago this department rebuilt each of the park’s 86 campsites to better serve the public. The Facilities Department also does a lot of work within the park. Last year they undertook a major upgrade of the Recreation Building. The Finance and Procurement Department provides funding for everything that happens at the park.
South Cove County Park is a 40-acre park that offers camping and day-use facilities which include: fishing, swimming, lake access, boat landings, pickleball, tennis, playgrounds, picnic areas and rental shelters. Visitors at South Cove book 15,000 camping nights. Sustainable and eco-friendly efforts are made so that future generations can enjoy the park
Stephen Schutt is the current superintendent at South Cove County Park. His team of park rangers provides Youth Programs, which include Wildlife Habitat Management and Junior Naturalist.
The late 1960s – early 1970s were a pivotal time when long-lasting decisions were made that led to the wonderful park and with stellar public amenities we are fortunate to have today.
South Cove, along with High Falls, are two Oconee County parks located on the shores of Lake Keowee. South Cove is located in Seneca, less than 2 miles from Highway 23. Duke Power owns the property. When Duke first began planning to build the nuclear power plant, in the late 1960s, the company formed a partnership with the state of South Carolina. Three lakes (Jocassee, Keowee and Hartwell) were built for the purpose of keeping the nuclear reactors cool. In addition to building the lake system and the actual power plant, Duke was also required to establish parks along the shoreline to be used for public recreation. This led to the creation of South Cove and High Falls County Parks.
When South Cove was established, tourism was the largest industry in South Carolina — this is still true today!
In preparation for the 50th birthday celebration, curators Leslie Hagerty and Jennifer Moss, from Oconee History Museum, searching archives for information. They found dozens of articles from local newspapers over the decades.
Here’s a sampling of accolades South Cove County Park has received over the years…
Plaques will be made and installed at South Cove County Park to recognize all the people who were instrumental in establishing the park.