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Cornelius News

Petition seeks to close beach; what do falling lake levels mean?


June 28. UPDATE 5 PM. In the fantasy world of “Every Idea is a Good Idea,” the new beach at Ramsey Creek Park is brilliant: The water is warm, the view is perfect and, indeed, everyone deserves to swim at a county-owned beach.

But this idea has gone haywire, despite years in the making. Among the problems:

  • Too much demand, based on the location and the existing infrastructure. The parking is inadequate and the two-lane roads in—Nantz Road and West Catawba—are virtually unchanged from decades ago.
  • The traffic light promised at the intersection of Nantz and West Catawba apparently won’t be ready any time soon. Town Commissioner Michael Miltich, who lives on Nantz, says he has “no idea” when the partially completed intersection will be finished and the traffic light up and running.
  • There’s apparently a serious coordination issue, Miltich says. NCDOT will do the light installation. The county is responsible for right of way. Epcon, the developer of a new active adult community, is actually constructing the intersection, Miltich says.
  • Nantz Road dead-ends in Lake Norman, and nearby side streets ranging from Yachtman to Largo Place also dead-end in Lake Norman, meaning would-be beach-goers are doing multiple loops around residential streets until a parking spot opens up.

But what’s not been discussed so far are lake levels. They’ve dropped by a foot since the beach was dedicated amidst much fanfare May 24. Where there was four feet of water at the edge of the swimming area a month ago, there’s now only three feet.

Meanwhile, the lake continues to drop, as is the norm during the summer. On Aug. 16 last year, the lake level was at 95.1 feet, according to Duke Energy. It’s now at 97.7 feet, indicating a potential two-foot drop in water levels during the next six weeks.

A summer-time drought got under way in earnest in late July last year. By Sept. 24 last year, the lake level was at 93.6 feet, four feet below current levels.

If the lake drops by just a foot from current levels, it means there will be two feet of water at the deepest part of the swimming area, presumably at the piling farthest from the center of the beach. The bright side is that the beach will become larger as the lake falls.

Of course, if there is abundant rain, the lake may not fall at all. The National Weather Service long-term outlook calls for a typical summer.

At the beach dedication May 24, County Parks Director Jim Garges told Cornelius Today the county would not move the pilings and resulting swimming area farther out into deeper water. He also said there are no plans to open a beach at nearby Jetton Park to alleviate pressure on Ramsey Creek Park.

The county has raised weekend entry fees, however, to reduce demand.

Meanwhile, many nearby residents are upset about the abrupt change in their neighborhood. Owners of some lakefront homes say their values have gone down overnight, based on traffic and beachgoers roaming the streets.

An online petition, “CLOSE RAMSEY CREEK PARK BEACH,” had 164 signatures at 10:30 am today.

It says: “We, the residents of Cornelius and Meckleburg County, NC undersigned, request the closure of Ramsey Creek Park Swim Beach immediately because no study about local impact has been done, which leads to its poor planning, negative impact on the neighborhood and costly bandage fix.”

Deb Bunton, one of the organizers of the petition, did not return a phone call this morning.

But a letter that she sent to friends says “this is not just about Nantz Road but all of Cornelius and what the beach has brought to Cornelius.”

The Town of Cornelius has little control over the beach or traffic. The county is paying off-duty Cornelius Police officers to staff the intersection seven days a week.

The sidewalk on Nantz Road is incomplete. At the corner of Nantz and West Catawba it has been broken and removed.

Miltich says he is still trying to craft a Parking Ordinance request.

“I am suggesting next year making beach parking by reservation only, otherwise entry by shuttle,” Miltich says.


Another way to cut the demand for the beach is to increase supply. Bill Russell, CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber says there needs to be more than one beach in Mecklenburg County. “Plans need to be made to create another Beach at Mountain Island Lake. … Bottom line, Ramsey cannot be the only beach. I still believe Jetton where there is a beach already and Blythe could and should be considered,” the business leader said.