Become a Member Today

Membership in SMLA is your best and easiest opportunity to ensure that the Lake that you have known and loved will continue to be environmentally preserved, safe in all recreational activities, and a place where you kids and grandkids will seek to enjoy. Join us and participate in one of our many Lake- protecting activities. It is your best and cheapest “insurance” you can buy to maintain your property value by preserving our treasure – The Jewel of the Blue Ridge.

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What Does the SMLA Do For Smith Mountain Lake?

SMLA’s focus is environmental and boater safety; our mission is to protect the water of SML and promote safe recreation. Through our focused activities SMLA strives to retain the pristine beauty of our lake encouraging resident’s and renters’ piece of mind and provides them with a legacy they can transfer to later generations. This translates to a vibrate local economy in support of our business partners. Below are current activities and reports that demonstrate SMLA’s level of commitment to our Lake. Other interesting and exciting accomplishments and activities can be viewed by browsing the website tabs at the top of every page.

Report It

Reporting Floating Trees and Logs

TLAC encourages residents to call them at 540-721-4400. As a service to the community, their staff will then forward a report on your behalf. However,  if it is outside business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 – 4:30) and the debris poses an immediate navigation hazard, residents should call AEP directly at 800-956-4237.

Report a Boating Accident/Incident

Should you be involved in a boating accident, please contact the local authorities (911) and Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (804-367-1000)

Report a Wake Incident

TLAC is collecting information regarding damage and incidents caused by high wakes.  If possible take photos and report the incident via this online form.


Monitoring Sites for Key Parameters to Determine Lake Aging


Tons of Debris Removed During 2019 Lake Cleanup Days


Gallons of Marine Head Effluent Disposed of from 142 boats in 2019


Free boat safety inspections conducted by the Water Safety Council team

Smith Mountain Lake has been listed by Boat U.S. magazine in their 2018 April/May edition as one of the top eight lakes in the country, and the 2018 June/July edition of Garden and Gun Magazine rated SML as one of the top 10 “Summer Lake Escapes”.

In 2019 Smith Mountain Lake has been ranked 15th on the best bass fishing lake list in the Northeast region.

Lessons Learned from the 2019 Boating Season

By Pat Massa, SML Water Safety Council

Each spring, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) publishes the Boating Incident Report from the previous season. To get included, mishaps must meet one or more of four qualifying characteristics: (1) Damages of over $2000 by or to the vessel or its equipment; (2) An injury requiring medical assistance beyond first aid; (3) Loss of life; (4) Disappearance of any person from a vessel.

During 2019, there were 89 such incidents on Virginia waters, involving 94 vessel, 35 injuries and 20 fatalities. Alcohol was a known factor in 20% of the fatalities. Paddle craft (canoes kayaks and paddleboards) were involved in 10% of fatal incidents. In all but one (95%) of the fatal incidents no life jacket was worn.

A few more specifics: As you would expect, most incidents happen during prime season, though in 2019 nearly 75% of November incidents resulted in loss of life.  Cold weather months definitely require those on the water be extra careful and prepared. The vessel type most typically  involved is “Open Motorboat.” Leading locations of boating Incidents are the Chesapeake Bay followed by our own Smith Mountain Lake. The most frequent types of fatality incidents are “collision with a fixed object” and “capsizing.” About 50% of the boats involved are 16 to 26 feet and the highest percentage of involved operators are age 56 and over (37%). The most common cause of fatality is falling overboard. Of the 20 deaths, nineteen victims were not wearing life jackets (the other fatality involved improper wearing of a PFD).

Specific to Smith Mountain Lake: No drownings occurred at SML in 2019—exactly the result your Water Safety Council works hard to achieve. That’s an improvement from both 2017 and 2018 when there was one fatality each year, though none of those involved a boat and thus were not reported as “boating incidents.”

Since the enactment of the safe boating law, incidents have decreased significantly, attesting to the value and importance of boating education. What do we need to do to keep ourselves and others safe?  First, everyone aboard a vessel should be wearing a life jacket. Should they find themselves in the water, their chances of survival are dramatically improved. Second, boat operators must remain unimpaired by alcohol or drugs and appoint a crew member to act as a lookout to warn of hazards.

Throughout the year, you will see articles on these and other water safety topics from members of the Water Safety Council. Pay attention and take their recommendations with you on the water. Sign up for one the new Boating Education refresher courses (listed at Make sure you, your boat and your crew are prepared for a safe boating season.

Be safe and courteous out there….that’s how you avoid becoming part of the statistics!

Patrick Massa  Chair- SMLA Water Safety Council

Safety Notes from SML Water Safety Council

Protect Your Children  –  Child Safety While Boating

By Neil Harrington, SML Water Safety Council

Boating at SML is a great family activity. Towing the children around on a tube, beaching the boat for an afternoon picnic or pulling into the guest docks at one of the local waterfront restaurants–all make for a fun day on the lake.  Keeping children safe while boating is your responsibility. Here are a few things to consider:

All children—even confident swimmers–should wear a properly fitted PFD anytime they are around the water, whether they are playing on the dock or riding in the boat. Don’t give in to the, “But I know how to swim!” plea.  The lake environment is all-together different than the neighborhood pool with lifeguards and crystal clear water.

All passengers, especially children, should be seated while the boat is in operation and remain seated until the Captain tells them it is ok to get up.  Sudden changes in direction or getting hit by a wake can easily eject a child from the boat or bang them against a fixed object.

Children are fascinated with water running under the bow of a boat. They want to watch it and may even reach down to touch it.  However, never allow children to hang over the bow or dangle their feet over the bow of a moving boat.  A child falling from the bow of a moving boat will be struck by the prop before the Captain has any time to take evasive action.  It only takes a second.

Approaching and departing docks is a busy time for the Captain and the crew. Teach your children the importance of remaining seated while the Captain and designated crew take care of docking activities.  Children can easily fall overboard because of sudden changes in direction.  And never allow children to jump to the dock from a boat until it is safely secured.

When towing children in a tube, keep your speed down and make adjustments as necessary.  Tubes have a tendency to “sling shot” through turns and bounce uncontrollably going over wakes. Childrens’ heads can easily bang together, resulting in concussions or other serious injuries.

Boating is a fun family activity.  Keep your children safe and enjoy boating here at Smith Mountain Lake.

SMLA Ushers in New Board of Directors Members for 2020

By John Rupnik

President, Smith Mountain Lake Association

SMLA begins 2020 with a new Board of Directors to oversee its mission of protecting the water of Smith Mountain Lake and promoting safe recreation on our lake.  Of the 21 Board members, four are new to the group. They include: Kelly Drinkard, Tom Hardy, George Morrison, Gail Phipps, and Tara Poelzig. 

Kelly Drinkard’s grandfather built a home on the beautiful shores of SML in 1963. He knew then what we know now; that this stunning lake is not only our most precious resource, but it is also the crown jewel of the Blue Ridge. Enjoying every summer here in her youth, Kelly has fond memories of waking at dawn to meet the best water-skiing conditions and has always held a firm belief that preserving this precious treasure is critical. Following ten years serving a 501 (c)(3) in Lynchburg, Kelly moved to the lake full-time in 2012 wearing many hats in our community. She is a Certified Manager of Community Associations, a Realtor ® with Lake Retreat Properties, manages Waller’s restaurant during the season and plays in a local band. Kelly has 15 years of accounting and bookkeeping experience and has worked with and for multiple boards during this time. She feels we all have a duty to serve our community and looks forward to assisting the SMLA in its mission.

Tom Hardy and his wife moved to Smith Mountain Lake in 2005. After working as an actuary in the insurance industry for 41 years, he retired in 2017. During his career, he managed business units responsible for developing and selling investment products utilized by large pension plan fund managers and money market investment fund managers, both in the US and overseas. More recently, as VP and Chief Risk Officer for the insurance division, he managed the enterprise risk management team which was responsible for building complex mathematical models designed to evaluate capital sufficiency for the spectrum of risks faced by a multi-line international insurance business as well as setting risk guidelines for the various business units. Since retiring, Tom has spent much of his time sailing on the lake, hiking, gardening, and playing tennis. Out of a strong desire to protect this beautiful lake that we are fortunate to be able to enjoy every day, Tom joined the Water Quality Monitoring program in 2017, and he looks forward to becoming more actively involved in the SMLA.

George Morrison retired from UPS after 37 years of service, beginning part-time and progressing through the ranks as a part-time supervisor, full-time supervisor, manager, and staff-level manager. Experience and reassignments included inside operations, personnel, industrial engineering, hub operations, delivery operations, and numerous special projects, later promoted to district HR manager Philadelphia Air District, where he doubled the facility workforce, becoming region workforce planning, training, and development manager of the East Central region. He is a past-president and current board member of the Rotary Club of SML foundation. He is an active TPSML Lake-Cleanup and other club projects. He joined the board of the Charity Home Tour 2012, serving as a traffic chair four years and becoming board chair in 2016. He is a member of the Outlaw Cruisers Car Club in Rocky Mount and Lake Pipes Club of SML allowing him to enjoy his passion for antique and collectible automobiles. Their existing home was completed in 2006 and they became full-time residents in 2011. He enjoys time with his wife, anything automotive, helping in the community and giving back to those who have not had the same luck nor opportunities that came his way. He enjoys living at the lake and thinks it’s a blast having a 22,000-acre pond in his back yard!

Tara Poelzing works as an Outreach Educator and Public Relations Specialist for the Western Virginia Water Authority (WVWA), a water and wastewater utility serving 180,000 customers in the Roanoke region and Botetourt and Franklin Counties. She enjoys recreating at SML with her family and friends and learning about the work that is done for Lake health both at her work and as a representative WVWA attendee at the SMLA Annual Meetings. She serves as the secretary for Blue Ridge Environmental Educators, a regional team of the Virginia Association for Environmental Educators (VAEE). She also serves on the Certifying Advisory Board for the development of a statewide Environmental Education Certification program. With a BS in Education from Wright State University and an MS in Parks, Recreation & Tourism with an emphasis in Environmental Interpretation from the University of Utah, she has worked and served in a number of capacities in Ohio, Utah, and now Virginia including riparian restoration and community building projects in Salt Lake City and an education program with WVWA that serves every 6th grader in Franklin County. Tara lives in Roanoke with her husband and two sons, and she is passionate about connecting people with their natural world.

Gail Phipps began her career as a certified data systems analyst and crypto-mathematician with the National Security Agency. Her prior experience includes responsibility for engineering, design, integration, and implementation of network-centric architectures and migrating client enterprises to more powerful and open environments as well as profit and loss, business development and operations management. Her clients have been mainly in the Federal Government. Gail started her own consulting firm, RGP 1 LLC, after retiring from CACI in November 2008. She is consulting with major and specialized corporations involved in homeland security, justice & law enforcement, and the intelligence community. She co-founded a strategic planning and corporate development consulting organization named Phipps, Miller, and Associates (PM&A). She also joined White Peak Capital as a senior consultant to support their clients as they go through the M&A process. Gail joined CACI in 1999 as Executive Vice President of the DOJ sector. Ms. Phipps provides more than 35 years of experience and demonstrated success in support of growth strategies, transitions to new lines of business, and providing new technologies to clients. 

Returning Board members include: Chris Bechtler, Victor Clarke, Bob Hastings, Tom Hofelich, Brian Key, Gale Easter, Neil Holthouser, Pat Massa, Mike McCord, Doug Pafford, John Rupnik, Chuck Sinex, Lorie Smith, Dave Smitherman, Randy Stow, and Edgar Tuck.  These members work tirelessly helping to protect the water of Smith Mountain Lake and promote safe recreation all year round. SMLA is always looking for new members, new committee members, and new Board members.  If you are interested in participating on one of the SMLA committees, or being involved on a “working” Board, please contact Teresa Picking at the SMLA office (540 -719-0690) and express your desires. Come visit us. We’d love to have you!

SMLA Elects New Officers for 2020

The Smith Mountain Lake Association Board of Directors elected their new Officers for 2020.  John Rupnik will assume responsibilities as President, Bob Hastings will serve as Vice President, Gail Phipps will be their Corporate Secretary, and Kelly Drinkard will control SMLA financial assets as Treasurer.  

John Rupnik has served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer since 2015. He is an active volunteer monitor of 3 sites within the water quality monitoring program. He also helped launch and maintained the SMLA web site for the past four years. John hopes his tenure as President will promote a mid-term action plan to support, communicate and effectively implement impacting SMLA initiatives within our neighborhoods. Outgoing President Lorie Smith is “passing the gavel” to John in this photo.

As the first act as the new President, John Rupnik asked Mike McCord to present Lorie Smith with a Momento of Thanks for serving as President for the past thee years. The duties of the President are multiple and varied; Lorie has accomplished her tasks with professionalism and devotion to the organization.  Lorie will continue to serve on the Board of Directors. Mike McCord, a Board member and woodworker, created the placard with a computer controlled wood router.

Boating Courtesy Discussed at SMLA Annual MeetingBy Sherese Gore – Smith Mountain EagleA phrase the Smith Mountain Lake Association uses is “watch your wake, share the lake,” said SMLA member Randy Stow last week.Boating courtesy was a topic discussed at the 2019 Smith Mountain Lake Association Annual Meeting on Thursday. The gathering, held at Trinity Ecumenical Parish, was open to the community.“Boating courtesy is recognizing how our behavior impacts others and then operating in a way to minimize adverse conditions,” Stow said.Stow noted the Water Sports Industry Association advocates for a buffer of at least 200 feet from docks and shorelines; other stances urge boaters to be mindful of the volume of their music and avoid operating in the same area.Stow said that SMLA is trying to reinforce the same message through education, billboards and banners, such as those posted at certain marinas around the lake that urge boaters to “wake responsibly.”……..

By Bob Hastings

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take an out-of-town family member for a boat ride up the Blackwater. It was an outstanding August afternoon to enjoy the sunshine, fellowship of family and the beautiful waters of Smith Mountain Lake. My sister-in-law, who is a realtor in Raleigh was quick to tell me how impressed she was with the beautiful homes lining the Blackwater river. I agreed until, as a dedicated member of the Smith Mountain Lake Association, I noticed how many homeowners are growing grass down to their rip rap. I thought to myself, “beautiful houses but, boy oh boy do these homeowners need a buffer garden between their rip rap and grass.”

You see, growing grass down to our rip rap provides a runway for pollutants and contaminants to flow directly into our lake water…..

By Charles Fort

Boats designed to make jumbo waves for riding can cause problems for other boaters and property owners. But there are steps you can take to minimize conflicts.

WakeboardingCommon courtesy is key to wakesurfers getting along with traditional boaters. (Photo: Jason Lee/Nautique)

Electric Shock Drowning Explained

One year ago, over Fourth of July weekend, Alexandra Anderson, 13, and her brother Brayden Anderson, 8, were swimming near a private dock in the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri when they started to scream. Their parents went to their aid, but by the time the siblings were pulled from the lake, they were unresponsive.

SMLA Newsletter “Lake Matters: Spring 2020” Published

Read our newest newsletter: Articles on our new Board members, the President’s vision for 2020 and how COVID-19 is impacting it, and how “Bugs” help to effect the Save Our Streams program.

Nursery Fish Habitat Application and Information

Interested in installing your own milk crate nursery fish habitat structures around your dock?  Find the Information sheet and Application Form here; both from VADGIF.

In general, water quality improves significantly as the water moves from the upper channels toward the dam. This is consistent with observations that have been made since the second year of the monitoring project. Eroded soil is carried to the lake by silt-laden streams, but sedimentation begins in the quiescent lake water. Phosphorus, primarily in the form of phosphate ions, strongly associates with the soil particles and settles out during the sedimentation process. Concentrations of total phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, and Secchi depth all correlate significantly with distance from the dam. 

SMLA T-Shirts Now Available On-line!

Show your support for SMLA! Colorful, high quality SMLA T-Shirts are now available on our website Shop page. Find great T-Shirts for all of the family in 4 different exciting colors from Small to 3XL sizes.

In Memorium

SMLA lost a cornerstone of our organization; on January 14, Dr. Carolyn Thomas passed away. Carolyn, a retired professor of environmental studies and biology at Ferrum College, started the SML Water Quality Monitoring Program over 33 years ago and was instrumental to the tremendous successes that SMLA and Ferrum achieved in protecting the water of SML. She will be sorely missed.
In lieu of flowers, the Thomas and Pohlad families request individuals make a gift to the Carolyn Thomas Memorial Fund at Ferrum College. Donations will support the College’s Division of Natural Sciences.