Boaters ask county's help in getting better High Rock access

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Thousands of Rowan residents who use High Rock Lake for boating, swimming and fishing are asking the county to push Alcoa for a first-class public access.
Terry Hill, owner of Hill’s Minnow Farm at 7940 Bringle Ferry Road and chairman of the county Planning Board, presented a petition with 2,600 signatures to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners last week.
County commissioners agreed to take a look at the public access issue.
Hill said Wednesday he could have easily gotten 6,000 or 7,000 signatures if he had put the petition out at multiple locations around the lake.
As part of the proposed relicensing agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Alcoa has agreed to provide a new public access off Leonard Road.
“It’s a mudhole,” Hill said. “It’s 6 foot deep when the lake is full; when the lake is down, 3 feet. You can’t operate a boat. It’s too shallow for swimming.”
Hill said the Leonard Road location north of the Shrine Club puts it away from the Second Creek and Crane Creek areas which are most heavily used by local boaters. “I traveled High Rock Lake all my life. Thirty years ago we wouldn’t hardly go above the Shrine Club. It wasn’t good to travel then. It’s filled in a lot since.”
“It’s a useless site,” Hills said, adding that he is “terribly disappointed in what Alcoa is offering.”
Hill urged commissioners to support a site off File Road near the entrance to Crane Creek. He contends that site is perfect for boating, swimming and fishing.
He used a depth finder to check out the site. “Water slopes off to almost 20 feet deep. It has a cove that could be roped off for swimming.”
Focusing on the financial side, Hill told commissioners the county is losing a lot of sales tax revenue because boaters are having to go to Davidson or Stanly counties, where Alcoa provides top-notch public access facilities.
To support his case, Hill passed out a page of pictures showing the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission access on Bringle Ferry Road filled with trucks and boats at 6:30 on a Saturday morning in early April.
He said he saw several boaters stop, survey the filled site and drive away.
“This year has been worse than ever because people can’t afford to go out of town. They are trying to stay local. We need the facilities for them,” Hill said.
He made clear he isn’t asking for any county tax dollars to be spent. Instead, he wants the county to push Alcoa to provide facilities in Rowan equal to the ones they provide in other counties along High Rock and the other lakes in the chain.
Hill and many of those signing the petition believe Rowan is getting shorted. While the Rowan County Board of Commissioners is backing the Alcoa relicensing, Stanly and Davidson are fighting Alcoa. “They have great facilities,” he said. “Our county is trying to get along with Alcoa and what they are offering is terrible.”
At the Monday night meeting, Hill offered to take commissioners on a boat ride on the lake to show them Alcoa’s proposed site and the File Road site.
Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, told Hill the board is aware of the concerns.
Chamberlain appointed commissioners Tina Hall and Jim Sides to work with Hill on coming up with a recommendation. And Chamberlain promised the board will listen.