Six months ago, it was a deserted, nameless lake with a chain across the only path to it -- one of the best-kept secrets in Frederick County, Va.

On a recent sunny weekday afternoon, two fishermen were launching their 12-foot skiff into what has been christened Lake Frederick.

The 117-acre man-made lake east of Winchester was donated to the state in 1981. It opened to the public only last January, after protracted repairs to its leaky dam and equally protracted debate over how the surrounding property would be developed.

Intergate, a Loudoun County development firm that had an option on the 1,000-acre tract, recently withdrew its plan to build 1,800 houses there. But the original landowners, Frederick County developers James L. Bowman and Fred L. Glaize III, have adopted the plan, although Bowman said recently that the number of houses probably will be reduced "a little" to increase the size of the lots closest to the lake.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Interior Department has warned that a shared access road to the houses and the lake raises "several serious concerns" about whether the lake will remain truly public. Critics of the development, concerned about traffic and water pollution as well as public access to the lake, had hoped the department would take issue with the number of houses, not the road.

New signs posted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries promise a boat ramp this year, with other improvements -- concessions, a pier and restrooms -- thereafter.