Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford unveils the new plaque that commemorates the completion of the dam rehabilitation and the reopening of Lake Gregory Drive. (Christian Shepherd, Mountain News)

By Christian Shepherd, Reporter | Thursday, May 2, 2019 9:00 am

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Following four years of work and after bringing in enough dirt to fill 21 Olympic-size swimming pools, the Lake Gregory Dam Rehabilitation Project has been completed and Lake Gregory Drive has been reopened to the public.

More than 200 people attended the opening ceremony at the dam reconstruction site. The project started out with a $4 million budget, but as the scope of the rehabilitation grew, the final cost landed at $24.6 million.

The construction doubled the previous width of the dam from the top to the bottom of the buttress, which was previously susceptible to seismic activity. New valves and pipelines were also included to control the lake level and allow for quicker drainage in the event of an emergency.

The event concluded with the reopening of Lake Gregory Drive, which had been closed to traffic since the summer of 2018 when construction began. 

The ceremony was led by Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford and featured remarks by State Sen. Mike Morrell, Assembly member Jay Obernolte, San Bernardino County CEO Gary McBride, Lake Gregory Improvement Committee Chairman Rick Dinon, RockForce Construction CEO Jordan Sukut, San Bernardino County Regional Parks Director Beahta Davis, San Bernardino County Special Districts Interim Director Luther Snoke and Mike Pate with Thousand Pines Christian Camp.

“When the dam was deemed a ‘high hazard dam’ by the State of California Division of Safety of Dams, we knew we had to either fix the problem or drain the lake,” Rutherford said, whose Second District includes Crestline and Lake Gregory. “I understood the significance of Lake Gregory to the Crestline community and the County of San Bernardino at large, and knew that seeing this project through had to be a priority.”

Rutherford also gave the audience a brief history on the Lake Gregory dam.

“83 years ago, the Crest Forest water district was formed to build a dam and to create a lake to provide recreational activities for mountain visitors and to create business opportunities for the relatively few people who lived in this community at the time,” Rutherford said.

“Arthur Gregory donated much of the land that would be flooded by the lake and he was elected first president of the water district. He put his heart and soul into making this lake and this community happen. It was a long dream of his, so I know that he is watching over us and celebrating with us as well.”

Rutherford added that Gregory overcame many obstacles in order to make the community surrounding Lake Gregory happen.

“In 1936, the country was just beginning to crawl out of the depression, Gregory secured a quarter of a million dollars from the Federal Works Progress Administration to develop the lake, but that federal money dried up in 1937,” Rutherford said. “He, with his persistence and his dream, found the money to complete the project. In September of 1937, hundreds of residents … gathered right here on this spot to celebrate the completion of that project.”

Rutherford also acknowledged the impact that the construction project has had on the Lake Gregory community.

“It also meant a lot of trucks, back and forth up the mountain, and a lot of headaches for the residents, and I appreciate the patience and the understanding, and I am delighted that we are going to have the road open today,” Rutherford said to a roaring applause.

A large rock that had fallen during the dam’s rehabilitation was fixed with a plaque commemorating the completion of the dam reconstruction.

State Sen. Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga also showed his gratitude for the mountain community and the dam reconstruction project.

“I am not going to do any dam jokes,” Morrell said. “But I am grateful to be out of Sacramento and here with people who are normal. So thank you very much.”

“I am just grateful for this project, and I am glad to be able to represent the whole mountain,” Morrell added. “Thank you for everything you do, and if you do have any complaints … please call Assemblyman Jay Obernolte.”

Beahta Davis, Director of Regional Parks, was the last guest speaker at the opening ceremony.

“This is such a huge step for Lake Gregory regional park,” Davis said. “As you know, visitors come from all around to have a nice, quiet, quaint family getaway, and we are really excited about how the completion of the dam is already helping our lake to look beautiful.”

Davis then directed her speech toward the future of Lake Gregory.

“If you look behind you, or as you saw on your drive up on the shuttles, how classic and beautiful the lake looks,” Davis added. “This is only the beginning for this summer and summers to come.”

Christian Shepherd can be reached at