Gwen Gunnells and her husband, Barney, co-owners of Gunnells Marine Unlimited, both grew up on Lake Greenwood, enjoying everything the lake had to offer, before buying the marine dealership when they were very young adults. “We were too young and spirited to make our business successful to know and understand the struggles along the way,” Gwen says. It’s a family business—her mom, in her 80s, works there three days a week, and Barney’s dad worked with them until he was 85 years of age. They have employees that have been with them 34 years… a lifetime.
Although today’s visitors enjoy many of the same activities on the lake that Gwen and Barney grew up with, there are new options for even more water fun. “The development of technology and new products provides a much broader range of activities,” Gwen says. “Wakeboarding and wake surfing, and lots of other innovations, allow more people to get out on the lake.”
And word has spread about Lake Greenwood. “Our population on the lake has blossomed in the last ten years.” Not only are more people visiting and even moving to the lake, new marinas and the growth of existing marinas have helped open up lake access to more people through boat, pontoon, jet ski and board rentals. With Greenwood’s mild climate and new motor technology, more boaters are on the lake 12 months of the year.
Now that the population is larger, the lake-related businesses have become more varied and financially stronger.
Always Something to Do
The development of the Blueway, a 34-mile trail for paddling, has brought kayakers, canoers and other water lovers to the area. Kiosks and signage on the Blueway increase paddlers’ knowledge of their environment. A paddler can do short or long routes. Connect Lake Greenwood has several Paddle Runs each year that start at the Buzzard Roost Dam and go to various drop-off points for pickup.
Connect Lake Greenwood partnered with Lake Greenwood State Park to build a three-mile walk and bike trail for those who prefer a view from the land. Several sandy beaches provide great places for volleyball and swimming, while a Jungle Float and boat rentals at Skippers, an ice cream boat, a reminder of the neighborhood ice cream truck, all add to the fun and variety. A “Wüber” (water Uber) provides both customized and prepackaged lake cruises, as well as transportation to the restaurants along the lake.
Moon Landing is a popular RV spot with family activities and a pavilion for church services and other events. A new Class A motorcoach community is now on the Laurens County side of the lake for motorhomes.
In addition to traditional water activities and live music at nearby restaurants, the July 4th fireworks at FellowshipCamp and Conference Center (July 3 this year) is an unforgettable experience. Although COVID-19 has prevented the land activities like summer concerts, the fun on the water doesn’t stop. More than 500 boats gather to watch the fireworks show, one of the largest in South Carolina.
Take a Break for Taste
Gwen says people have been eager for more restaurants on the lake and are excited about the choices.
Break on the Lake may be the most popular waterfront dining venue, but it’s only the beginning. Harris Landing is an older venue with live music and great burgers and other casual food. Woody’s NY Pizza at 72 Bridge on the Laurens side of the lake is a favorite for pizza, subs and more. Lee’s BBQ has an extensive takeout menu that includes their renowned banana pudding. Seasons by the Lake on the lower end of the lake boasts a well-known chef and specialty food. Skippers Landing also provides great food and atmosphere for lake goers.
Communication and Preservation
In addition to Gunnells Marine, Gwen works hard to preserve and promote the lake. She serves on both the Master Plan Board and Connect Lake Greenwood. “The purpose of Connect Lake Greenwood is to communicate with residents and businesses, listen to their needs, to be able to be their voice,” she says. Connect works with the Master Plan Board to do capacity studies, work on beautification projects at entrances, lighting for bridges and railroad trestles. They’ve helped create no-wake and slow zones in addition to trail projects. “I’ve been on Connect since it started. It’s nice to see the number of people who are interested in keeping the lake peaceful and beautiful.”
The Master Plan Board helps maintain a healthy and safe lake environment with water testing, sediment control, especially for new construction projects, and capacity studies to keep the lake from becoming overcrowded. “We study other lakes’ growing pains and their solutions,” Gwen says. Plans include another public park, more public space, at least one more ramp for day transporters and larger fishing tournaments.
Both groups communicate with Preserving Lake Greenwood, a conservation nonprofit to protect the rich resource of the lake and its activities. Preserving Lake Greenwood in turn works on water quality and data with Upstate Forever, a Greenville-based nonprofit that promotes balanced growth and preserves the region’s land, water and culture through policy initiatives.
Dropping a Line
Water quality is crucial to the lake’s users, the fishermen who flock there for catfish, bass, and crappie. There’s a good reason that Bass Fishing Hall of Famer Davey Hite calls Greenwood County home—the fishing is great.
“We have multiple tournaments every week, as well as night tournaments,” Gwen says. More than pro fishing tournaments, the lake hosted one of the largest high school state tournaments. High school and collegiate tournaments have grown exponentially in the last five years. In fact, high school tournaments in South Carolina have grown so fast that they have to limit entries.
Gunnells Marine helps sponsor and both fishing and water ski teams from Lander University, Greenwood and Ninety Six High Schools to help promote water sports and local educational opportunities. Gwen gives credit to a dear friend and pro skier, water skier Hall of Famer, and world record holder, Jeff Rodgers, for starting and assisting the Ninety Six Fishing Team and providing guidance, a boat, and a place to ski for the Lander Ski Team. Greenwood is known for giving back and supporting their town.
Things to Love About Greenwood
“It’s the perfect size town with an awesome lake, lots of daily activities, plenty of good restaurants. It’s a fun place to live,” Gwen says.
As the options for fun grow on the lake, the county’s industrial base is growing, creating a more versatile economy. Still, it retains the small town atmosphere. “Greenwood is not overpopulated and crowded, but still small enough that people mostly know each other.”
Ultimately, life on Lake Greenwood has so many rewards. “When I go home in the afternoon,” Gwen says, “everything goes away because the water is such a peaceful place."