by: Holly Maynard Updated:
LAKE NORMAN, N.C. - The public will once again be allowed to swim on Lake Norman in Mecklenburg County.
Swimming was banned there decades ago after several people drowned. While Lake Norman has 520 miles of shoreline, there is just one place for the public to swim, at exit 42 in Iredell County at Lake Norman State Park.
That information surprised some people at Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius.
"I think it's a beautiful place," said Larry Wilson, who stopped by the park from Concord. "Oh my goodness, there needs to be a place to swim."
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley says that's going to happen.
A few years ago, commissioners lifted the ban on public swimming and found that Ramsey Creek Park would be the best place for it. But then the economy tanked.
A few weeks ago, Bentley received an update from county parks leaders and learned money may be available next summer.
"We will have funding coming, that's the next step. So once we have funding in place, we're in great shape," Bentley said.
A lot has to be done after that, though.
Estimates in 2009 showed it would cost more than $400,000 to add restrooms, do underwater surveys and make several other changes to the park. It must also meet federal standards since it is owned by Duke Energy.
That means any public swimming is at least two years away, and county parks leaders said most likely, it will be much longer than that.
Still, nearby businesses are excited just to learn that the issue is once again being discussed.
The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce said families often stop by their offices in bathing suits, wondering where they can swim, only to be directed several miles up the interstate. They said local business leaders have been asking about where plans stand on public swimming in Cornelius.
"The more business the better," said Adam Moran, who manages a local restaurant. He anticipates an even busier dining room when the work is done.
"I think it would help out quite a bit," he said.