Few community resources are as eye-catching as Langley Pond. Its scenic landscape and near perfect rowing conditions make it unparalleled in the Southeast, and perhaps even the entire country.
It’s actually the only Olympic-sized racecourse in the state and the world’s largest pond, measuring just a few inches shy of being a lake. But its effect on Aiken Country stretches far beyond any quantifiable fact.
Year after year, the benefits reaped from having such a rare community gem are strikingly evident during the Southeastern Regional Regatta sponsored by the U.S. Rowing Association.
On Saturday and Sunday, the event brought an estimated 250 to 300 rowers to Aiken County. They came not only with their regatta gear, but with cash in their pockets to stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.
The event, however, is not just about bringing extra dollars to the community, it’s also about bringing exposure to Aiken County.
The teams at the regatta came from all across the Southeast, including groups from as close as Augusta to as far away as Florida and Tennessee. Fortunately, Aiken County’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism staff has the foresight to see beyond the current size of the event.
According to Assistant Administrator Brian Sanders, future regattas could see up to 2,000 or more rowers coming to Langley Pond each year.
Along with expanding the number of participants, the County is also eyeing improvements to the course itself, with the goal of making events more viewer friendly. According to Sanders, plans are being developed to alter the finish line to give fans a chance to be “right on top” of the action as rowers finish the race.
Such changes should see not only more rowers each year, but an increase in the number of spectators as well.
While rowing may be considered a niche sport at this point, it’s popularity appears to be on the rise. It’s a low cost activity and many colleges, including Clemson University, are adding it as an official sport to meet the requirements of legislation known as Title IX, aimed at preventing gender discrimination in educational institutions.
According to Mike Forster, co-chief referee at Langley Pond’s regatta, a women’s rowing team can add 60 female athletes or more to an athletic department, furthering the growth of the sport.
Although it appears set to grow in popularity, Aiken County has smartly decided not to invest all of its time and energy exclusively on rowing at Langley Pond.
It also recently completed the Horse Creek Water Trail, a newly developed stretch of a longer section of trail connecting Langley Pond Park to Harrison Caver Park in Clearwater.
The revamped trail effectively promotes both recreation and conservation and ties in well with the other attractions at the park, including a playground, picnic area and boat ramp.
Years ago, the land near Langley Pond was one of the cornerstones of the community’s economic vitality with hundreds of people living and working at nearby mill villages.
While that has changed, the area is still ripe for growth.
We hope Aiken County continues to focus its efforts on transforming Langley Pond into one of the best economic engines and recreational resources in our community.