By JULIE ROSE
Mecklenburg County plans to lift its 30-year ban on swimming at county parks on Lake Norman – possibly by the summer of 2015. The county Park & Recreation department will allow the access at Ramsey Creek Park, off Nantz Road in Cornelius.
Currently only people with boats or lakefront property have access to swim in the Lake. A series of drowning deaths in the 1970s prompted the swimming ban.
“Over the past few years there’s been a lot of growing requests and need and recognition that ‘Yes, we need to have public swimming on our lakes,'” Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Deputy Director Michael Kirschman said. “We have three major lakes – all in Mecklenburg County – with no public swimming facilities.”
The town of Cornelius and the Lake Norman of Chamber of Commerce have been vocal advocates of public swimming access on the lake. Mr. Kirschman says the county has included $400,000 for a swimming beach at Ramsey Creek Park on its list of capital projects to be funded next year.
Assuming the county’s financial situation continues to recover, Mr. Kirschman notes it will probably still take two years to get the permits and federal permission required for the beach.
Ultimately he says the county expects to add public swimming access on Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake, too.
[The issue of swimming on the lake came up at last Thursday’s Lake Norman Chamber candidate forum in Huntersville, where incumbent Commissioner Karen Bentley announced that the county park and rec department had allocated $430,000 in its Fiscal 2014 capital projects budget to improve the beach at Ramsey Creek Park.
“This is great news for our lake communities and the residents of Mecklenburg County,” chamber president and CEO Bill Russell said Friday. “It also will have a profound impact on travel and tourism and the families and children who visit us in the future.”
“I’ve always thought our greatest liquid asset shouldn’t be off limits to the public. Lake Norman is not just a body of water with 520 miles of shoreline – it is a lifestyle everyone should have the opportunity to experience,” Mr. Russell said.]
Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation web page for Ramsey Creek Park