‘We’ve been doing it for 60 years now’ Lake Murray’s progress threatens boat touchdown’s survival
Johnny Shealy’s household has operated a ship touchdown in Irmo for 60 years, however rising property taxes threatens its survival.
Johnny Shealy’s household has operated a ship touchdown in Irmo for 60 years, however rising property taxes threatens its survival.
Not lengthy after shifting to Columbia from Montana, Caitlin Turner appeared for a seashore on Lake Murray the place she might chill out and swim.
However Turner, 28, didn’t discover a lot in the best way of public entry. She shortly realized that Lake Murray has just one public seashore alongside its 650-mile shoreline. Seashore goers are relegated to a strip of sand close to the dam that will get so congested on summer time days guests typically wait in line to get in.
The lake’s lack of seashores ought to come as no shock to long-time Columbia residents.
Lake Murray, an almost 48,000-acre reservoir constructed within the early 20th century, has fewer public seashores than most of South Carolina’s largest leisure lakes. And in contrast to another Carolinas lakes, there aren’t any plans so as to add public seashores anytime quickly.
Positioned in considered one of South Carolina’s greatest metropolitan areas, Lake Murray has developed nearly solely as a spot for waterfront property homeowners and boaters to take pleasure in.
On sizzling summer time weekends it’s simple to see energy boats zooming across the lake or sailboats shifting placidly alongside its waters. Many occasions these boats pull as much as islands within the lake, the place individuals swim from the remoted shores. Alongside the mainland, individuals swim from personal seashores or docks that stretch from high-end properties.
That must be evident Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial begin of summer time, when Lake Murray once more is a hub of exercise.
For individuals who don’t personal lakeside actual property or boats, about the one locations to swim — aside from the seashore on the Lake Murray dam — are makeshift spots they find out about. However that’s not ultimate.
These locations typically put individuals perilously near boat site visitors. On the identical time, attempting to swim in these areas can get individuals booted off the property by indignant landowners.
When Turner desires to keep away from crowds, she searches for any open and accessible stretch of shoreline. She’ll have a look at a map and discover a street that runs near the water, then hike right down to the shoreline and swim. She at all times tries to ask property homeowners if it’s all proper to go to the water there, she mentioned.
The general public can also swim at Dreher Island State Park close to Chapin, however the park doesn’t have a sandy seashore. Swimming usually entails leaping from a grassy financial institution into the water.
That leaves the sandy shoreline on the dam as the one official swimming seashore, a spot that draws 100,000 individuals to Lake Murray annually, based on Dominion Vitality, the utility that runs the reservoir.
Turner mentioned she’s grateful for the seashore on the dam, however “This place does get actually busy on the weekends, so it will be good so as to add one other one.’’
Dominion Vitality, the Virginia energy firm that purchased SCE&G this 12 months, says it plans to ascertain extra public parks at Lake Murray as a part of a brand new federal license settlement for the Lake Murray dam. It can proceed to work with curiosity teams to assist decide what type of recreation can be provided, spokesperson Nicole Smith wrote in an e mail.
However for now, extra seashores aren’t on the agenda.
“The corporate doesn’t have any present plans to develop one other seashore space on Lake Murray,’’ Dominion mentioned in a current e mail to The State, declining to elaborate.
Whereas establishing a brand new seashore may very well be completed — it will contain buying permits, spreading sand on Lake Murray’s naturally muddy shoreline and establishing parking and restrooms — the hassle would require greater than development.
It might require help from lakeside property homeowners. And that may very well be politically troublesome.
‘A lake, not a seashore’
Totally 60% of Lake Murray’s shoreline is privately owned, which units up potential conflicts if efforts ever arose to ascertain one other public seashore.
Householders would possibly balk at any plan for a seashore that might disrupt the neighborhoods they’ve invested in, mentioned state Rep. Chip Huggins, a Lexington County Republican who represents a part of Lake Murray.
4 years in the past, property homeowners within the Ballentine space complained after studying that Richland County had bought land on the lake to be used by the general public.
Residents blasted the county for protecting the plan secret for months, however residents additionally voiced considerations over whether or not a public recreation space would make site visitors congestion worse of their neighborhood. One property proprietor mentioned the deliberate entry space would permit the neighborhood to be “invaded by so many automobiles, vans, boats and noise.’’
“Boy, oh boy, if that wasn’t an absolute debacle,’’ Huggins instructed The State, noting that extra public seashores might end in extra litter on Lake Murray and create complications for regulation enforcement.
“It is a lake, not a seashore,’’ Huggins mentioned. “I don’t suppose I’ve ever had anybody point out that we’d like extra seashores on Lake Murray.’’
Garnering help to create public seashores is harder now than it will have been a number of many years in the past, mentioned Otis Rawl, president and chief government of the Better Lexington Chamber and Guests Middle. There’s a robust sense of territorialism from people who dwell alongside the lake and say “Not in my yard,’’ mentioned Rawl, who grew up in Lexington County.
“It’s nearly like constructing a waste facility or a faculty,” he mentioned, “That in all probability would have been simpler to do 20 or 30 years in the past.”
Nonetheless, he and others say extra public swimming seashores could be sights for Lake Murray.
Former Chapin Mayor Stan Shealy and Les Tweed, a pacesetter with the Ballentine Civic Affiliation, mentioned the hot button is discovering the appropriate spot. Not solely would extra seashores make extra area for many who don’t have boats or waterfront property, but it surely may very well be a vacation spot for guests to the Columbia space, they mentioned.
“It might be a great factor,’’ Shealy mentioned. “We (in Chapin) name ourselves the capital of Lake Murray, however there’s not a lot public seashore entry to the lake.”
Miriam Atria, head of the Capital Metropolis Lake Murray Nation tourism company, mentioned there’s a “large want” for extra public entry.
“Our group brings a whole lot of leisure guests to the lake but additionally, we flip away a whole lot of enterprise resulting from lack of public entry,” she instructed The State in an e mail.
Lake Murrays seashore is on the Lexington aspect of the dam. It’s the solely formally designated seashore on the practically 50,000-acre lake west of Columbia.
Some seashores closed
Lake Murray used to have extra seashores.
Dreher Island State Park as soon as had a swimming seashore for guests. However the state Division of Parks, Recreation and Tourism stopped sustaining the seashore years in the past after saying it couldn’t discover sufficient lifeguards to employees the seashore.
Swimming continues to be allowed, however it’s “at your personal danger,’’ mentioned Daybreak Dawson-Home, a spokeswoman for the parks division.
Nicely earlier than the lake turned a spot for brand new, high-dollar properties, the favored Jake’s Touchdown space additionally had a sandy public seashore. Within the early 1970s, individuals would pay $1 per automobile to go to the seashore and an adjoining campground, mentioned Archie Trawick, who runs Jake’s Touchdown.
That modified, satirically, when SCE&G established the seashore by the dam in 1972, Trawick mentioned. He mentioned extra individuals started visiting the facility firm seashore, finally forcing him to close down his personal swimming space to the general public.
“We couldn’t compete with that,” he mentioned. “Now we have to do issues that persons are prepared to pay for.”
Now, Trawick solely maintains a personal seashore for residents of his touchdown property.
A kind of residents, John Tingen, mentioned relations at all times let him entry the lake from their property, however after a loss of life within the household, “that entry went away.” In the end, Tingen mentioned he and his spouse purchased an $18,000 cellular dwelling close to the lake, full with a personal seashore and “sundown views.”
“I hope to be right here on the lake till I’ve to go to assisted residing,” he mentioned.
One motive Lake Murray doesn’t have a whole lot of seashore entry might heart on the utility that owned the lake for many years. S.C. Electrical & Gasoline Co. was an investor-owned utility whose main mission was to supply energy and a great funding for stockholders. Dominion is also investor-owned.
In distinction, the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers manages lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond on the Georgia border, and state-owned Santee Cooper manages lakes Marion and Moultrie between Columbia and Charleston. As a result of the Corps and Santee Cooper are public companies, spokespeople mentioned they’ve an obligation to supply ample public entry — which incorporates seashores.
The Corps says Lake Thurmond has 48 public seashores and Hartwell has 23. The Corps additionally says it has two public seashores on Lake Russell, a a lot youthful lake than the opposite two the company manages. Lake Marion has seven public seashores, whereas Lake Moultrie has 5, based on Santee Cooper.
“We’re congressionally mandated, as a mission, to boost recreation,’’ mentioned Billy Birdwell, a spokesman for the Corps in Savannah.
Corps of Engineers lakes, in contrast to utility lakes, additionally preserve a “collar” of public land alongside the fast shorelines. Whereas personal properties may be constructed alongside Corps lakes, possession doesn’t lengthen to the waterline.
In some circumstances, the Corps leases land to the state or native governments to function parks and seashores. On Lake Hartwell, as an illustration, town of Anderson maintains a seashore off of U.S. 178.
Even Duke Vitality, which like Dominion is an investor-owned utility, says it’s planning so as to add not less than six extra swimming seashores to a few of its North Carolina lakes, in addition to Lake Wylie close to Rock Hill and Lake Wateree north of Columbia.
Lake Wateree, which now has one seashore, will get two extra by 2022, Duke spokeswoman Kim Crawford mentioned. The primary can be added at Molly Creek subsequent 12 months, she mentioned. Lake Wylie close to Rock Hill is also slated to get two extra swim seashores, the corporate says.
(South Carolina’s ocean seashores are naturally sandy stretches of shoreline which are plentiful and open to the general public.)
Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper, mentioned anybody who manages a lake ought to search for methods to assist the general public acquire entry to the water. And seashores are one of the best ways to try this, mentioned Bonitatibus, whose group retains up with points on lakes Thurmond, Hartwell and Russell.
“For the overwhelming majority of individuals, how they work together with the water is in a seashore scenario,’’ she mentioned. “It’s not honest when the one individuals capable of entry a public waterway are those wealthy sufficient to afford it.’’
No swimming at boat ramps
Of Lake Murray’s practically 650 miles of shoreline, 392 miles are privately owned.
There are greater than 10,000 lakefront properties on Lake Murray, based on county information on actual property multiple-listing providers. 1 / 4 of Lake Murray properties available on the market this spring price greater than half 1,000,000 , based on a nationwide market report generated by Lake Properties Realty.
The opposite 257 miles of shoreline, or 40 p.c, are owned by Dominion.
Lake Murray has 11 parks with boat ramps. Folks typically swim close to these boat ramps, though they aren’t alleged to. State regulation prohibits swimming inside 50 ft of boat landings.
A few of that property nonetheless owned by Dominion can be utilized in coming years to broaden present public parks and entry factors.
About 1,400 acres of land can be used to create six new park websites on the south aspect of the lake, three on the north aspect, in addition to three new park websites alongside the decrease Saluda River, based on Dominion. A further 45 acres can be used to broaden six present public entry factors.
Nonetheless, not one of the land can be put aside for a seashore., based on present plans. The ability firm didn’t say why it has no plans for one more seashore at Lake Murray, however the firm mentioned its future lake plans had been developed after conferences with property homeowners and curiosity teams by the years.
Rawl, the Lexington chamber government, mentioned an apparent spot for a public seashore could be at a spot recognized to boaters as Sandy Seashore. Positioned on a peninsula on the Lexington aspect of the lake, the realm has traditionally been accessible solely to individuals driving boats.
“So much must be achieved, however lots of people already are utilizing it,’’ Rawl mentioned. “It’s only a matter of whether or not or not you’re employed out the little nuances to get it open and get it the place it may very well be loved from the land aspect, in addition to the water aspect.’’
Dominion additionally maintains Pine Island, an island with a personal seashore now accessible solely to energy firm workers, retirees of the corporate and their visitors.
Atria, head of the lake tourism group, mentioned a public model of Pine Island may very well be a significant promoting level.
“It might keep booked year-round,” she mentioned.
However with none plans for one more seashore, swimming on the lake can be restricted to those that can afford a ship or waterfront land — or who can squeeze into the one seashore on the dam.
Steve Fisher mentioned that when he moved to Columbia from California 15 years in the past, he instantly observed Lake Murray wasn’t designed to prioritize public entry. A paddle boarding summer time camp proprietor and instructor, Fisher mentioned he as soon as was instructed he was trespassing when he and his campers went ashore close to a lakeside enterprise.
“I’ve at all times been a poor man, a schoolteacher, “ he mentioned. “I educate about authorities and democracy so I bristle on the concept of such a terrific useful resource being surrounded by privately-owned property. It appears elitist.”
Shanada Cunningham wouldn’t thoughts extra seashore entry.
Sitting on the seashore on the dam earlier this month, Cunningham, 29, watched her son chase three black geese by the water. It was the Columbia native’s first time on the seashore this 12 months. She plans to come back a number of extra occasions in the course of the 5 months it’s open, she mentioned. However not on holidays.
“It’s too busy,” she mentioned.
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
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Why did we report this story?
Lake Murray is among the Midlands’ prized possessions, an asset flaunted by residents, native governments, faculty districts and builders alike. The realm round Lake Murray has additionally grown tremendously for the reason that early days of the utility-owned reservoir, making it worthwhile property and an in-demand way of life.
However is Lake Murray as accessible because it may very well be? How does it examine to different South Carolina lakes? Who’s overlooked because the lake turns into more and more personal and residential? And the way might the lake’s new proprietor, Dominion Vitality, form the way forward for public entry? We got down to reply these questions.
Lake Murray’s seashore is close to the dam. It’s the solely formally designated seashore on the practically 50,000-acre lake west of Columbia.
File picture/The State
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