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Editorial: Enhancing High Rock Lake is a public issue

Greg Edds, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, is working with a group of citizens to capitalize on the rare asset Rowan has in High Rock Lake. This initiative could be one of the most exciting developments to take place in Rowan County in a long time. The committee’s conversations about it should take place in public.

As reported in last Sunday’s Post, people with the High Rock Lake Association and other stakeholders have been talking with Edds about turning this “hidden gem,” as the chairman calls it, into an economic driver. It’s a good idea. In North Carolina, High Rock is second only to Lake Norman in size. High Rock has been held back, though, by misconceptions based on past conditions — for example, that the lake level fluctuates dramatically or that there are more restrictions on eating its fish than on other lakes. Wrong on both counts. The lake has improved in recent years, and it appears High Rock’s time to shine is near.

Fortunately, the lake has a strong group of advocates in the High Rock Lake Association. But projects on the table now touch on matters that go beyond private landowners. A public access area is in the planning stages. Improved roads and safety buoys are on the list. Edds was wise to pull together a committee to look at these and other matters, a group that includes representatives of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, the Rowan EDC, the lake association and area business owners. The committee could be in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law, though, if it does not let the public in on its meetings too. Any group Edds appoints to act in an advisory capacity, however informally, is a public body whose meetings should be open to the public.

“Leave the lake alone,” more than one person has commented on the Post’s website. Even if the law did not set out open meeting requirements for a group like the High Rock Lake Committee, “leave it alone” sentiments show the need to broaden the discussion. People on the outside form suspicions and theories that could undermine the group’s good intentions. Transparency gives them access to facts.

A lot of good things are going on in Rowan County right now, thanks to the leadership and persistence of Greg Edds and others. The economy is improving, infrastructure is going in, people are collaborating. High Rock Lake is poised to be part of that progress. It’s time to open discussion of the lake’s future to all its stakeholders — the citizens of Rowan County.

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