Lake Norman moves closer to public-access swimming

CORNELIUS – Tourists and residents without lakefront property can rejoice.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley expects Lake Norman’s Ramsey Creek Park to offer public-access swimming by summer 2014. She pointed to $430,000 in the county’s capital plan for the project.  

“It is dependent on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but we believe that process will go smoothly,” Bentley told business owners during a June 21 Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce program. “We have the funds to begin planning, have contractors (working), build a beach, and we’ll have people in the water by then.”

Bentley’s announcement was a pleasant one for N.C. Sen. Jeff Tarte, who served as mayor of Cornelius.

“We’ve been at it for literally almost a decade,” Tarte said, adding the process began when he served on the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Board. “It’s a big deal. It’s absolutely the right thing to do.”

Tarte credited Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce President Bill Russell for building support for the project.

Russell said he’s hoped for public-access swimming in the area since he took over as chamber president in 1997. He recalled encountering visitors asking where they could go swim.

“If you didn’t have lakefront property or had friends who had it or had a boat, you couldn't enjoy it. It was economic discrimination,” Russell said. “Lake Norman is the greatest liquid asset we have. We need to be able to showcase it and let folks who come here from other areas have access to it.”

Russell said public-access swimming should also benefit the area from a business standpoint. The park’s beach could be used as a tool to recruit companies whose employees are looking for lakefront leisure.  

“There’s no question businesses move here because we’re close to Charlotte-Douglas (International Airport) and Charlotte as a whole, but we have the lake,” Russell said. “You’re seeing this explosion of growth in Huntersville, Cornelius, Mooresville and Davidson. The lake is driving that.”?

Tarte cautions that traffic may be a concern associated with public-access swimming.

 “Traffic is good, because it will pull people off the interstate and into Cornelius, which will be great for our local businesses,” Tarte said. “We just have to make sure we have the road infrastructure in and around the park so people can get in and out without clogging things for our local residents. Nance Road and Catawba (Avenue) are going to be a zoo.”