The flocking is coming. And as more people show up looking to get their toes wet this summer, several groups are working to give them more ways to do it.
Memorial Day is the unofficial launch of boating season each year on Lake Wylie, but boating isn’t the only way to enjoy the water. At Ebenezer Park, the lake’s lone choice for public swimming, design work is complete on a new master plan. It calls for arced pier shelters out in the water, a swim beach, water fountain plaza, playground, picnic areas, kayak and canoe launch, boat slips, trails, sand volleyball, basketball court and cornhole boards.
Fred Guthier with ADC Engineering presented the new master plan Monday night to York County Council.
“It’s heavily visited,” he said of Ebenezer. “Fifty-thousand visitors between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year.”
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The park was built more than three decades ago. Piecemeal improvements were made since, but parts of it still reflect the initial design.
“There’s many pieces of the park that are just out of date, in disrepair,” Guthier said. “There’s also a need because of the visitors to increase the amenities.”
The biggest change, if the project moves forward to construction, is the 130-foot radius arced pier area. Piers would include a shelter with stage. They would have double-sided swings, with a swim area inside them and fishing allowed toward the lake side.
“It’s actually using space that wasn’t there to begin with,” Guthier said.
His group was brought on to master plan the site, but the county still will have to decide on whether to approve is in full. Guthier said preliminary cost estimates for what he presented put the project at about $4.5 million.
On Tuesday, just hours after the Ebenezer Park presentation, the county hospitality tax advisory committee met to talk tourism projects. Some group members said they expect an application for improvements at Ebenezer. The group already put money toward an outdoor waterpark area at the new Clover School District aquatic center on Crowders Creek. Now that a special recreation tax district is complete in Lake Wylie, pre-approved hospitality tax money will go toward a new Lake Wylie park near it.
“Those two facilities will remake recreation activity out there,” said former York County Council and Htax advisory committee member Tom Smith.
Smith said the last swim meet at the aquatic center brought in 700 people from outside the area. There have been two so far, with four more planned. The sports park, with a variety of amenities planned, won’t begin construction until next year if current momentum holds. It’s one of several waterfront or near-the-water projects countywide, joining the massive Catawba Park project in Tega Cay and improvements in the Allison Creek area of Lake Wylie.
Still, there’s more.
Also on Tuesday, Duke Energy announced $1.1 million in water resources fund grants throughout the Carolinas. Funding for 27 projects is part of a $10 million multi-year investment that will “ensure that future generations will enjoy the benefits of our waterways,” said David Fountain, Duke’s North Carolina president.
“This in one of the many ways we are working to build a better future for our communities,” he said.
On the Catawba, more than $76,000 will go to a University of North Carolina at Charlotte project to create a Catawba Basin Upland Watershed Observatory. The site will document the impact of land use and invasive species in the Catawba basin.
Two days after that announcement, another Duke project opens on Catawba Indian Nation property. A new boat launch was built there as part of the multimillion dollar recreation investment in Duke’s hydroelectric relicensing application submitted a decade ago.
It’s the same recreation package that’s putting a public restroom at Buster Boyd Access Area, restrooms and trails at Fort Mill Access Area and more acreage at Allison Creek Access Area for a campground and other potential amenities through a partnership with York County.
Heading to the lake?
As Memorial Day nears, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is offering free boat safety inspections. The closest one comes 10 a.m. to noon May 27 at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill.