County officials believe they have a plan that will ease congestion at the popular and recently-opened Ramsey Creek Park beach.
The plan will include a series of rate increases, use of wristbands and a free weekend shuttle service to help control traffic and attendance. Some of the fees are expected to double the current price and could be in effect by the end of the month. The shuttle service was expected to start earlier.
“We think it’s a pretty good plan,” said Park Operations Superintendent Greg Clemmer. “We’ll try it out, work the kinks out and keep it going from now until Labor Day. Our goal is to try to reduce the traffic on the roads and try to reduce the walk-ins. I’m not saying it’s going to solve all the problems, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Under the current fee structure, drive-in attendees pay $3 per car for county residents and $5 for non-county residents, with those using the boat landing area charged $5. Seniors citizens and those with disabilities pay $2 (county resident) and $3 (non-county resident). In addition, a season pass is available for $52.
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The new fee structure would increase the drive-in fees for county and other residents to $5 and $10, respectively, on Monday-Thursday, and to $10 and $15 respectively, for Friday-Sunday, while leaving in place the fees for seniors citizens/disabled, boat operators and season passes.
There also would be fees for walk-in attendees, people who are being dropped off at the entrance to Ramsey Creek Park and picked up later. That fee would be $3 per person for ages 6-13 and $5 per person for age 14 and older. Children age 5 and younger would be admitted free.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners were expected to decide on the fees by June 21.
“We’re trying to eliminate the walk-ins as much as possible,” said Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation director Jim Garges. “But if they do walk in, they’ll have a fee. Between the fee and our other proposal ... would encourage people not to walk in.”
The shuttle service, which would only be used on weekends and holidays, would transport people from CATS’ Park and Ride site on Northcross Drive in Huntersville to Ramsey Creek Park, a 3.8-mile trip. Those using the service, which would run 9 a.m.-8 p.m., also would get free admission to the swim beach.
Clemmer said the shuttle buses would operate on 15-minute cycles, but would be stopped when parks officials decided the beach’s capacity (set at 500 people) or the park’s capacity (2,000 people) had been reached.
“It’s a logical location to try and run the shuttle,” Clemmer said. “The idea is to accomplish two things that we see as major problems – the walk-ins and the traffic. That’s why we’re making the service free. The incentive is to get you to ride the bus.”
Clemmer and Garges also said Cornelius and Mecklenburg County parks officials would work with businesses close to Ramsey Creek Park to block their parking lots on weekends.
In addition, people paying the fees, both those coming in cars and walk-ins, would be issued a colored wristband for access to the swim beach.
Since the Ramsey Creek swim beach opened Memorial Day weekend, residents of Nantz Road have complained about its adverse impact on the community.
A standing-room-only crowd attended a public meeting on the matter at the Cornelius town hall June 9, with the June 16 meeting added by county officials to provide a follow-up.
Among the officials attending the June 16 meeting were county manager Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg Commissioners Jim Puckett and Pat Cotham, Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis, and several Cornelius town board members.
While the majority of the Ramsey Creek Park area residents expressed support for the proposed fee increases and the shuttle buses, some asked that more be done, even to the extent of shutting down access to the beach until an impact study can be made, and plans are in place to mitigate the impact.
“It’s a start, an idea, a place to grow from,” said Mike Montanaro, who has lived on Nantz Road for 17 years. “There’s enough potential that it could change the whole face of this discussion.
“But there are also problems that none of these attempted solutions address. To force the uncontrolled traffic and safety problems on our neighborhood and town … was ill-conceived. To allow it to continue is beyond irresponsible.
“We have problems, and there are solutions. I hope ideas come about and are tweaked so that they are the best solutions.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.