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May 7, 2014

MOSS: Brother and sister look to rejuvenate family lakes

CLARKSVILLE — Are Kopp’s Lakes again what people want? We will know, before long.

They already are what Donna Kopp Ennis and Tommy Kopp need. They feel committed, obliged, determined, all of the above and more to get back going the getaway created by their grandparents.

Kopp’s Lakes never quite totally closed, yet Ennis and Kopp work toward an ambitious revival of the site’s memorable heyday.

“We just had this vision — we’re so driven,” Ennis said. “When you have a vision in your head, you have to see it through.”

Visible from Interstate 65, Kopp’s Lakes are but a few stones’ throws north of the Wal-Mart in Clarksville. Two prime, stocked pay fishing lakes rest on 96 remarkably tranquil acres, initially a Kopp family dairy farm that still includes a shelter house, restrooms, scattered amenities. The place will benefit from the painting, weeding, overall freshening that Ennis and Kopp — the new owners — steadily provide amid the duties of busy life.

“I was nervous at first,” Tommy Kopp said. “I’m still nervous a little bit. It’s a lot to take on.”

Kopp and his sister stepped up after their grandmother, Lucille Kopp, died last year and the property’s future suddenly clouded. An auction was mulled but rejected. Tommy Kopp and his family moved into the house on the grounds, the back porch of which is where visitors check in, buy bait and snacks. As weather doesn’t always cooperate, a grand reopening has been penciled in for this date and then that one and so on. Meanwhile, the fish are biting and an encouraging smattering of former regulars return.

“I think they’re smart,” fisherman Ellis Pappas, of Sellersburg, said of Ennis and Kopp and their hopes. “This is what’s missing today — the family connection. People are looking for a place to connect and forget about stuff.”

Dug for fill dirt for state road projects, Kopp’s Lakes opened with a bang in the late 1970s.

“Talk to somebody from that era, they’ve been here,” Ennis said. The place stayed busy through Ennis’ childhood and beyond. Ennis recalls swimmers — a feature no longer allowed — a diving board and a rope swing, inner-tube rentals. Bands played. Companies held picnics and groups roasted pigs.

Being pretty much away from it all, yet handy, proved an advantage Ennis and Kopp again expect to exploit.

“It’s like the country in the city,” Kopp said.

The popularity of Kopp’s Lakes faded after Pete Kopp — Ennis and Tommy Kopp’s grandfather — died and his wife aged and struggled to promote and manage. As long as she could, she treated the fishermen like family, often offering them lunch and dinner. All along, Ennis, of Charlestown, and her brother imagined the eventual challenge they confront.

“We talked about how great the place could be,” Ennis said. “We always talked about all the things we would do.”

Fishing remains popular. Will fishing at Kopp’s Lake again be?

“It’s very important,” Tommy Kopp said. “We’re carrying on the tradition.

“My grandfather — he’d be happy.”    

— Send column ideas to dale.moss@twc.com

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