This article was written in 2008 and posted in the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Lake Link newsletter.
Last summer, I wrote an editorial called “Access Denied!” which our Charlotte area media picked up. The editorial was focused on Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s current policy that prohibits public swimming in any of the County’s lakefront parks. In my editorial, I pointed out that if you are not fortunate enough to own lakefront property or a personal watercraft or know someone who does – you have no access to the lake. There are some area businesses which rent watercraft. However, if you do not have the financial means, you are left “high and dry.”
Many of our county residents simply do not have the resources that many others of us take for granted. Individuals and families who do have lakefront property, boats, and other watercraft should enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, access to the lake should be made available to everyone. A couple of years ago, I was leaving the Chamber offices on a summer afternoon around 5:30. I had just turned the key in the front door when two cars pulled up at the Visitors Center loaded with young people. A young man exited one of the cars with a wide grin on his face. “Sir,” he inquired, “Are you with the Visitors Center?’ “I’m with the Chamber,” I replied back. “How can I help you?” The young man queried, “Can you tell me how to get to Lake Norman?”
“Well you’re here,” I replied back. My response was well received as I could hear the gleeful conversations going on in both cars. “Great,” said the young man whose grin had exploded into a wide smile across his face. “Where can you go swimming?” he added. It’s a question I’ve answered countless times throughout my time at the Chamber. I informed the young man that we didn’t have public swimming here in Mecklenburg County. He and his group would need to drive 20 miles up the Interstate to Lake Norman State Park. Looking at my watch, I also informed him that it likely will be closed by the time he arrived. I could see the dejection on his face. I literally felt the exhilaration and energy that had once occupied the cars wither on the hot pavement below as the two cars of disappointed youngsters drove back home.
It’s moments like that – I really feel bad. I cannot help but think of the Chevy Chase movie Vacation when the family treks across the country only to find the amusement park is closed for repairs. It is time to change an archaic policy that has no place at Lake Norman. We have a great lake. Largely in part to the hard work of Visit Lake Norman, Anglers across this country know Lake Norman as a great fishing venue. Water enthusiasts enjoy sailing, boating, skiing on our waters. It is simply a great lake! It is also a missed opportunity for our travelers and tourists staying at our hotels. More importantly – it’s a quality of life issue for our families. While pools are available at the hotels and parks – there is much to be said for the cool embrace of an inviting lake.
Our greatest liquid asset shouldn’t be off limits to the public. Lake Norman is not just a large body of water – it is a lifestyle everyone should experience.