Several Virginia State Parks are surrounded by land managed by the Virginia Department of Forestry. Many of our park users are not aware that some of the trails they hike are not on state park property. One such trails loops around Winston Lake near Bear Creek Lake State Park.
Winston Lake is one of the smallest lakes of the State Forest lakes.
In the 1930s, the federal government began several projects in the central piedmont region of Virginia. The goal of these projects was to reforest areas damaged by decades of aggressive logging, unsustainable farming practices, and economic depression.
In 1936 construction of Winston Lake was underway.
These areas became the beginnings of what we now know as the Virginia State Forest system, managed by the VA Department of Forestry (DOF). These forests were developed to renovate the land as well as slow soil erosion from the local watersheds that feed the Chesapeake Bay. These areas became the State Forests of Cumberland, Appomattox/Buckingham, and Prince Edward/Gallion. In the conservation-minded spirit of the times, recreation was also an integral part of that blueprint. All these new forests would include lakes for boating and fishing, and picnic areas with the understanding that time spent in nature restores the soul.
Of the several lakes built for recreation in the three public lands, one of the first finished was Winston Lake, in the Cumberland State Forest. It is probably the smallest of these State Forest Lakes, but has an undeniable charm that reminds us that we are the caretakers of our public places and in return receive beauty and a sense of self and a communal past.
Stairs lead visitors to Winston Lake.
On a spring day, the Ide family, while visiting Bear Creek Lake State Park, performed a spruce-up of the lake’s picnic area as a part of a Stewardship Virginia event held by the park. They said, “Thank you for helping us start of our Easter morning with such a great opportunity. What a lovely spot!” One spot of many public places that generous volunteers maintain. The accompanying photos show us how such places blend with their surroundings, and are deserved of our stewardship.
Volunteers help maintain public spaces such as this picnic shelter near Winston Lake.
Bear Creek Lake State Park is located about 4.5 miles northwest of the town of Cumberland. From U.S. Route 60, go west on Route 622 and south on Route 629 to the park entrance.
Drive Time: Northern Va., three hours; Richmond, one hour; Roanoke, two hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, three hours.