MapQuest charts the driving distance from Blythe Landing Park on N.C. 73 to Jetton Park on Jetton Road as about 3.6 miles. By water, it's probably even less.
Either way, three of Mecklenburg County's Park and Recreation gems, visited by more than 250,000 people annually, can be found within this section of Lake Norman:
Blythe Landing, a 26-acre park on N.C. 73 boasting floating piers for boat launching;
Ramsey Creek Park, a 43.7-acre waterfront park with a beach and picnic area, as well as a major launching ramp;
Jetton Park, a 105-acre park with beach and picnic areas as well as a 1.3-mile bike trail and a 1.5-mile walking/roller blade trail.
How these three parks came to become part of the County Parks System, along with their history, is a fascinating story, according to John DeKamper of Cornelius, Mecklenburg County Parks Planning Consultant.
"Ramsey Creek Park was essentially a highly used boat launching facility in 1989 when the land for Jetton and Blythe was purchased," said DeKamper. "On nice weekends, the boat-trailer parking lot would be completely full, the open playing field became an overflow parking lot for boat trailers and both sides of the entrance road were lined with boat trailers. Disappointed folks were turned away at the gate and had to travel long distances to find another boat-launching facility."
DeKamper said neighbors complained vigorously because local roads were congested and boaters that couldn't find space in Ramsey parked on their streets.
"Since the park land was owned by Duke Power through their real estate division Crescent Resources there were no guarantees Duke wouldn't take the land back and build waterfront homes," he said.
With a desperate need of another boat-launching access on Lake Norman, county staff negotiated an agreement with Crescent Resources and bought the Jetton Park and Blythe Landing properties. Meanwhile the county continued to lease the Ramsey Creek property from Crescent Resources. Eventually Mecklenburg constructed a park office, restrooms, playground, picnic shelter and a residence for a full-time live-in park ranger/manager to help police the site.
Today the park is home to a large picnic area as well as the launching ramp. Its newest and perhaps most popular addition is a 3-acre dog park where dogs are permitted to run among other four-legged friends - owners nearby - in a safe, fenced-in venue. On a recent Sunday afternoon, more than 33 dogs were in the park.
Blythe Landing Park: Located at the southern tip of Lake Norman, the property housing Blythe Landing Park was acquired in 1989 from Crescent Resources; however, the actual facility was not constructed until 1994, after the development of the N.C. 73/Sam Furr Road area.
The park, which sits atop the Cornelius/Huntersville border, is best known today as the home base for the North Carolina Community Sailing and Rowing Center.
The location has proven an ideal launching ramp for boaters wishing to navigate Lake Norman by sailboat or rowboat. It also houses volleyball courts, picnic areas and a cafe.
Jetton Park: As with Blythe Landing, the 105-acre parcel was acquired from Crescent Resources. Unlike Blythe Landing, however, Crescent Resources paid for the construction of Jetton Park as part of the area land sale agreement. The park boasts picturesque walking trails and picnic areas, one of Lake Norman's few beaches, tennis courts and a unique Waterfront Hall, which can be used for catering.
According to county historians, the land was once the site of the most productive cotton plantation in North Carolina. The land was condemned by Duke Power when the lake was built in the 1960s and was supposed to be the site of a power plant that was never built.
What's ahead for parks in the Lake Norman area?
Cornelius is in the process of building Robbins Park, another community park on Westmoreland Road. In addition, the county owns 20 acres across Jetton Road from the park that was once slated for a recreation center.
Lake Norman residents enjoy what they have: Three public park facilities run by the county and a new town facility, all within a few miles of each other, designed to maximize the very best of what nature in North Carolina has to offer.