Lake Wylie boasts 325 miles of shoreline. Of that, only one plot about 100 yards long has been set aside as a public swimming area.
Last year, more than 20,000 people paid the $3 entry fee charged by York County to use the Ebenezer Park swimming area off Mount Gallant Road. So far this year, 15,507 people have paid to swim there with the hottest part of the summer still ahead.
A concerted effort by county officials to provide more access to the lake for swimmers is long overdue.
Thousands of boats ply Lake Wylie on a normal weekend. And statistics show that more than 2 million people use the lake for boating, swimming, picnicking and camping each year.
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Boat owners have no problem using the lake. They can avail themselves of any of the 15 public ramps along the shoreline. And those who own lakeside homes also can launch boats or swim from private docks.
But the rest, residents looking for a safe place to take a dip in the lake, have only Ebenezer Park.
Limited access hasn't stopped some swimmers from finding their own path to the lake. Unfortunately, much of Lake Wylie is inhospitable to swimmers because of dangerous currents or underwater hazards.
A number of areas along the lake are posted with no trespassing signs or signs prohibiting swimming. But determined swimmers have ignored the signs, and some have drowned.
The willingness of people to ignore warning signs and swim in areas that might not be safe is a clear indication that the lake lacks a suitable number of public sites for recreation. While the lake belongs to all of us, enjoying it is hard for most.
Duke Power, which owns much of the property along the lake, would be a necessary partner in establishing new public recreation areas. Company officials said four years ago that they were conducting numerous studies about how best to meet needs along the river.
So far, however, the fruits of those studies have been limited. And no study is needed to figure out that York County needs a real waterfront -- with lifeguards, a floating dock, a picnic area and showers.
That would be costly. But why not charge a nominal fee -- about $3, perhaps -- for use of the public boat docks? Every time a boat puts in, the owner would pay a fee. That money could be used to build and maintain a decent public swimming area.
That's just one idea. But the county and Duke Power need to work together to find a way to give the general public a large, safe swimming area on this public lake.