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Public beach in Rock Hill coming

A new swimming area planned for Lake Norman will be a sneak peak at what’s coming on Lake Wylie.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation held a community meeting Sept. 18 to outline plans for a swimming area on Lake Norman. Plans include a new beach with lifeguards during the summer. It will be half an acre, fenced off from other public uses. It’s the first swimming beach at a county park and rec facility since the county banned swimming at parks in the 1970s.

Duke Energy, as part of its ongoing hydroelectric relicensing, has four similar beaches planned, including one on Lake Wylie. That beach will be developed jointly by Duke and Rock Hill across from the city’s water intake, then leased to the city. The overall site will include fishing, picnicking, restrooms and parking near the end of India Hook Road.

Jennifer Jabon, spokeswoman for Duke, said her company is aware of the desire for more access to Lake Wylie, particularly swimming.

“The community is very eager to have this swimming area, and we look forward to being able to provide such a facility,” she said.

There is public swimming at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill. Windjammer Park in Tega Cay has a beach, but that park has limited public use. The new beach and many more projects hinge on relicensing, which Duke expects to be complete early next year. The new beach would be open to the public within five years of relicensing approval.

The relicensing agreement includes several recreation improvements on Lake Wylie, many of them in York County. Duke agreed to install restrooms at the Buster Boyd Access Area and add 48 acres to Allison Creek Access Area for an RV campground and lease to the county. Fort Mill Access Area gets restrooms, two picnic tables, a mile of trail and another mile just downstream.

Up to $165,000 will go toward a new canoe launch and parking on the Catawba Indian Reservation, and up to $265,000 for a canoe launch and 50 parking spaces with restrooms at Landsford Canal State Park. Duke will lease 137-acre Culp Island to South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Duke will lease Simpson Island to York County, and pay up to $465,000 for access and amenities.

Other projects are promised north of the state line. Duke committed to a canoe/kayak launch and 10 parking spaces at Dutchmans Creek Access Area in Mount Holly, up to $435,000 for Mecklenburg County to create a new boat access area, to lease 37-acre Saddler Island to the U.S. National Whitewater Center and to solicit a company to add camping, fishing, swimming and hiking at South Point Access Area.

Project timelines vary, but should be completed within 20 years of licensing approval.

Kevin Brickman, planner with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, said the partnership on Lake Norman doesn’t mean a similar beach is coming to McDowell Nature Preserve. Swimming still isn’t allowed at county park facilities not designated as swim beaches, like McDowell.

There is an overall emphasis in renovating pools and adding other water features. An updated facilities master plan is expected by the end of the year.

“We’re looking at aquatics countywide,” Brickman said. “Not just swim beaches but pools, water parks. It is something that people want.”

Other local projects are in the works. Earlier this summer, county park and rec staff met with residents to discuss Berewick Park. Two baseball or softball fields and a multipurpose field are planned behind Berewick Elementary School, as are picnic shelters, restrooms and an asphalt trail. The park should open by 2016.

In August, park and rec staff held a workshop on the Southwest Community Park project just east of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Two baseball/softball fields with restrooms are planned there, along with a playground. The project should open in late 2016.