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Lake tract could become part of canoe trail

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BRUCE HENDERSON - bhenderson@charlotteobserver.com
Mecklenburg County plans to turn the 4.5-acre site of the former Riverside Mobile Home Park into a park that could include a canoe ramp.

A former trailer park on the shores of Mountain Island Lake could become part of Mecklenburg County’s first canoe trail.

In April, county commissioners agreed to pay $420,000 to Elbert Associates for the 4.5-acre tract. County officials hope to close the sale by the end of March, once the remnants of the former Riverside Mobile Home Park are cleared.

The spit of land beside the N.C. 16 bridge has historic significance. It was the site of the antebellum Rozzelle House, an inn that fed ferry travelers across the Catawba River and other customers for more than a century. The house burned in 1990.

The land is also near the county’s Haymarket Nature Preserve, 100 wooded acres off Nance Cove Road that Mecklenburg bought in 2000 to protect the lake’s water quality. Mountain Island Lake is the main water supply for Charlotte, Gastonia and Mount Holly.

The county parks department hasn’t made firm plans for the tract, other than to use it as a passive park. That might include a canoe and kayak launch that could become part of a water-based trail, sometimes called a blueway, that the department envisions.

Chris Matthews, who’s in charge of nature preserves for the parks department, said a 16-mile trail could stretch from the Cowans Ford dam on the lake’s upper end to the Mountain Island Lake dam. The county hopes to work with Gaston County on the lake’s western shore.

The trail would have launches, such as the one at the lakefront Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, and stopping points along the way.

A second, 40-mile trail could be routed around the Catawba River below the Mountain Island Lake dam, Matthews said, potentially connecting popular areas such as the U.S. National Whitewater Center and the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Gaston County.

The county plans to seek public input, and that of waterfront cities, in mapping those routes, Matthews said.

Canoe trails are popular in Eastern North Carolina, with trail networks on the Roanoke and Lumber rivers and in the Albemarle Sound region.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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