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Cooleemee adopts new rules to keep RiverPark family friendly

By Lynn Rumley
For the Salisbury PostCOOLEEMEE ó When visitors walk down the hill along its forested trail and get their first glance at the shoals of the South Yadkin River, they are amazed at its rough beauty. Its big sand pile, naturally deposited by the flood of 2003, gives it a beach-like atmosphere. There is a natural water slide, too.
RiverPark at Cooleemee Falls was created by a large-scale community effort to preserve the place locals call “The Bullhole.” Its name originated from the bull ox that slipped into a whirlpool while carrying a timber across the river during construction of the mill town around 1900.
It had long served Davie and Rowan counties as a gathering spot for picnics, baptisms and fishing. After the mill closed, it became a less savory place known for drinking and drugs.
Back in 2000, this began to change. In less than 16 months, a task force mustered support from churches and civic groups, raising $1.1 million to acquire more than 70 acres and develop a nature park. Its Rowan side opened to the public in 2003. On weekends, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of people there, spread out along its shoreline.
The park project has been a source of pride for Cooleemee and remains a vital, potential link in its economic the future. Its Davie County land, yet to be brought into active park use, is adjacent to Cooleemee’s old mill. Many Carolina towns have successfully redeveloped such mills as new economic engines.
Just like other public parks, RiverPark has faced issues of vandalism. On a meager budget, RiverPark, Inc. installed security cameras and took other steps to prevent damage to park property. But last year, consumption of alcohol became a persistent problem, one that threatened to keep families from coming to enjoy the river.
“It was really a small group of people who were bringing back its old reputation,” says Daphne Beck, president of RiverPark. “An aggressive security plan was needed.”
Now, the Town of Cooleemee, which owns the park, has formally adopted the park rules as part of its own municipal laws. Park rules ban all alcoholic beverages and civil citations can carry a penalty of up to $500.
Increased enforcement has already begun. Cooleemee Police Chief Bobby West has been working closely with RiverPark’s board and the town to return the area to being a family friendly place.
“The park rules are clearly stated on a big sign at the entrance,” says West. “We going to strictly enforce them.”
Already, several tickets have been written for possession of beer and a man was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.
Patrols by law enforcement officers have been stepped up and off-duty officers hired for duty on random days during the warmer months.
“This park is owned by the Town and we mean business,” West said. “This is going to be a place that is safe and enjoyable.”
RiverPark continues to enlist volunteers willing to “Walk the Park” or work on its annual October Catfish Fry. Those interested may call 336-284-6040.

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