Lake Norman and Lake Wylie residents have one more summer to enjoy inflatable diving boards, slides and trampolines because Duke Energy intends to start enforcing a ban on the anchored water toys.
Lisa Hoffmann, a spokeswoman for Duke, said the company has noticed more of the large, anchored inflatables on the lakes. She said shoreline management guidelines established eight years ago ban the floats because they can block navigational access for boats and can hurt the “aesthetics” of the lake.
Mark Cotter, owner of Four Season Marine Supply in eastern Lincoln County, said he does not think the inflatables pose a navigational challenge. He said most people put the inflatables close to the shore, and people drive boats in the middle of the lake.
Cotter said the wake of large boats degrading the shoreline and docks is a bigger problem.
“It’s kind of like swatting a fly in your home while the back door is burning down,” he said. “There are bigger battles.”
Cotter said he only sells about five or six large inflatables a year.
“It’s not going to make me go broke, but it’s part of my business, and it’s part of the recreation of the lake,” he said.
Dan Stehle, chairman of the Lake Norman Marine Commission, said he has not noticed the inflatables causing problems for boats. But he said anything permanently moored in the lake could be a hazard.
Hoffmann said there will be a grace period to the end of Labor Day weekend so those who have already purchased the inflatables can use them through summer. The floats can range from about $300 to thousands of dollars.
Water toys that are used with moving watercraft, including tubes and towables for three people or fewer, are still permitted.
Hoffmann said fewer than 50 prohibited inflatables have been identified on lakes operated under federal license by Duke in the Carolinas.
After Labor Day, Duke will issue notices to anyone who still has a prohibited float, she said. If the float still is not removed, she said, violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Approved recreational sites, such as Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie, are exempt from the guideline, Hoffmann said.
Brad Rippetoe, associate director of the camp, said the five large inflatables help draw kids and their parents to Camp Thunderbird.
“Our campers spend about half of their day on the land and half on the waterfront,” he said. “If you look at our brochure, you will see water activities on almost every page we’ve ever produced.”