Great news for Charlotte-area beach lovers: Mecklenburg County will open its long-shuttered Ramsey Creek beach on Lake Norman in Cornelius for the 4th of July weekend, the county announced Tuesday morning.
The beach will open with “limited capacity” from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, county officials said, with free admission to those who ride a shuttle from the CATS Park & Ride lot at 19752-19758 One Norman Drive in Cornelius.
Beach access will be free to shuttle riders, while car drivers will pay $10 if they live in the county and $15 if they’re from outside Mecklenburg, officials said.
Seniors and people with disabilities will pay $2 to drive in if they’re from Mecklenburg and $3 if not.
County officials didn’t say how may people will be allowed in at a given time or if there’s a chance the beach would remain open beyond this weekend.
“Future dates and hours for beach operations will be announced when available,” officials said in a news release.
Due to a lifeguard shortage, the beach was closed “until further notice,” county Park and Recreation officials said before Memorial Day.
Despite raising pay and recruiting throughout the year, the county had filled just 86 of 247 available lifeguard jobs, according to a county news release.
Over the past five years, Mecklenburg Park and Rec established free training and learn-to-swim programs for would-be lifeguards.
The county also raised the minimum wage for lifeguards to $15 an hour, is offering $500 signing bonuses, and sent recruiters to CMS high schools and others in surrounding counties — still to little avail, officials said.
Beach lovers who want to stay local but can’t get into Ramsey Creek over the holiday weekend can head up Interstate 77 to the swimming beach at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman, nearly 40 miles from uptown.
Reaction to beach closing
County officials blamed everything from more part-time job choices to “declining access to swim training for potential applicants.”
Those explanations failed to appease some Lake Norman-area elected officials last month.
“Totally unacceptable,” state Rep. John Bradford said at the time about the closure.
“Meck County is flush with cash with federal money from the pandemic,” the Cornelius Republican posted on Facebook in response to a WSOC-TV report about the beach closure. “They are running well above the state’s mandated required reserves.
On Twitter, Huntersville town commissioner Stacy Phillips called the decision “not cool.”
“Before Meck County tries to turn the convo to make it like LKN doesn’t want this beach to open, I’m gonna say this entire situation is complete BS ...,” Phillips posted.
Phillips was referring to years-old complaints by residents near the park of noisy crowds, trespassers, litter and traffic jams.
“This is the ONLY public access to swimming in LKN,” Phillips posted “ .... Hiring ain’t that hard in a niche market.”
Before Meck County tries to turn the convo to make it like LKN doesn't want this beach to open, I'm gonna say this entire situation is complete BS & everyone I know is pissed. This is the ONLY public access to swimming in LKN. Not cool. Hiring ain't that hard in a niche market. https://t.co/3rZTj4k7KE
— Stacy Phillips ️ (@HopeisLOUD) May 25, 2021