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Swimming may come to Lake Norman parks, but not soon

For thirty years Mecklenburg County has banned swimming from parks along Lake Norman. Tonight, the County Commission is expected to lift that ban. It takes a special something to swim in Lake Norman. "You have to either own a home on the lake or have a boat to be able to access what we believe is a very great resource up here." That's County Commissioner Karen Bentley who represents the area around Lake Norman. The County has a few parks dotting the lake, but several drowning deaths in the 1970s prompted the county to ban swimming there. After several months of study, the county's Park and Recreation Department recommends lifting the ban. One of the concerns the drowning deaths brought up is how the county would handle a lawsuit. The county's risk assessors say allowing swimming only in certain areas with lifeguards would be ample protection for the county and swimmers. Greg Jackson is a Division Director at the Park and Recreation Department. "It's important that we create some areas that we know are safe. There's no stumps, there's not steep drop-offs, there's a gradual grade out. So if done properly it can be done safely," says Jackson. The department recommends creating a swimming area at Ramsey Creek. It's estimated to cost about $400,000 to build and $80,000 annually to operate. If commissioners decide to lift the ban, it would be at least two years before swimmers could take to the water. The county would have to hold public meetings and seek approval from federal regulators that monitor the lake. And that's assuming the county has enough money to pay for it.