Sailing center wants extended weekend hours
by Staff Writer
by Joe Spencer
CORNELIUS – The N.C. Community Sailing & Rowing center at Blythe Landing wants to expand its weekend operating hours to meet growing public demand.
Under its operating agreement with the county, the center must close by 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays from March through October. There are no restrictions from November through February.
But officials with the county, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and a nearby homeowners association are concerned about safety if more boats operate in the Ramsey Creek cove where Blythe Landing is located.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation controls all activities at Blythe Landing, including the operating hours of the sailing-rowing center.
The sailing-rowing center’s “operating hours were part of the original agreement at the time we gave them the lease and is going to stay that way for some period of time until we are assured that the situation is safe,” Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges said in an email. “The agreement is not going to change in the foreseeable future. There are many other users of the boat landing. They have made occasional requests for extended weekend hours for special occasions, and we have granted those requests.”
For instance, the sailing-rowing center got permission to remain open extra hours the weekend of June 25.
Sgt. Mark Faulkenberry, head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Lake Patrol, said he worries about the number of inexperienced captains of powerboat and sailboats together in the middle of Ramsey Creek, where Blythe Landing is located. “That is an accident waiting to happen,” Faulkenberry said. “We recommended reduced hours of operation last year as well. The Marine Commission also turned down (the sailing-rowing center’s) request last year.”
Sailing Center Director Garth Pearce said he’s received support from people living near the park.
“Neighbors actually like having the center because it helps patrol that end of the lake as well as prevent public use of our dock when we are operating,” Pearce said. “We recently got permission from Duke (Energy) to put up a ‘no fishing, no swimming’ sign and are working out wording and sign specifications with (county park officials). Neighbors have been previously annoyed with our construction activities. They just want things done right, which we understand.”
Sailing-rowing center volunteers have set up a dock patrol to stop public swimming and fishing from the dock while the facility is closed.
“I consider it a safety issue,” Lookout Point Homeowners Association board member Jack Stanford said. “Blythe Landing is very busy, and we have members’ homes back in the cove that have water access blocked by (sailing center) boating activities. However, a neighbor had 50 large boats coming in for a charity event last Saturday afternoon when the sailing center had a special permission to operate, and there were no problems.”
Bob Doran, another Lookout Point board member, added, “There was a previous dispute with the sailing center over the relocation of their mooring field. The (sailing center’s) Flying Scot sailboats were too close to neighbors’ docks, but that issue was resolved when the mooring field was removed. The issue now is their new dock and the public using it for swimming and fishing, but that may be a Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation issue. Neighbors just don’t want to see any accidents.”
“Additional traffic with sailboats could be a potential disaster,” Doran said. “There have been deaths on Lake Norman in past years. I love the lake but just wish there was some way to control the size and power of some of these boats. Kayaks venturing onto the lake could be a problem. I think the sailing center is a wonderful activity, and their Garth Pearce does a wonderful job keeping me informed. Personally, I would like to see more sailboats, but it is a safety issue in the cove.”
Luke Largess and other sailing-rowing center board members met Garges and his staff earlier this month to discuss the center’s operating issues.
“Park and Rec wants to take a slower approach to the issue, observing the sailing center operations over the summer, especially over the weekends that extended hours of operations are granted,” Largess said. “Board members and I came away from the meeting with the feeling that at the end of the summer and with a full season track record, Park and Rec staff will be ready to recommend to county commissioners that (the sailing-rowing center) be allowed to have full operating hours.”
aid Larry Vitez, founder of the center, “We are developing a weekend event schedule for the remainder of 2011 for (county) approval and jointly working toward unrestricted operating hours in 2012.”