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Some residents of High Rock Lake speaking out against proposed ‘no wake zone’

SALISBURY — Some residents of Panther Point at High Rock Lake are banding together via Facebook to voice their opposition to the establishment of a “no wake zone” on Panther Creek.

After a request from some of the development’s residents and a public hearing, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted Feb. 3 to apply for the zone with state officials. The development is in far southeastern Rowan County.

At the meeting, all residents who spoke in support of the measure — about half a dozen — voiced safety concerns, citing the danger of boat and jetski traffic in the cove. After the public comment period and after debating two different starting locations for the “no wake zone,” the board suggested that all of Panther Creek be included in the application.

Sara Maloney, who grew up at the lake and whose parents have a home on Panther Point Trail, said she feels the measure to establish a “no wake zone” is a “senseless, needless request.” She said the creek has provided children and adults an opportunity to learn how to ski in a safer area of the lake, adding that she won’t take her children to the main channel because it’s more dangerous.

“I am not aware of an injury that has occurred that would raise attention to a safety issue,” Maloney said. “And, as a mother of two small children, I am very aware of safety, especially on the water.”

Maloney said heat becomes a concern if boaters are, for example, having to travel out of the cove for extended periods of time in July before getting to the main channel.

After finding out fellow resident River Curlee created a Change.org petition to oppose the “no wake zone,” she created a Facebook page to provide information as it became available. The Facebook page, titled “Say ‘NO’ to Panther Point No Wake Zone,” currently has nearly 250 members. The change.org petition currently has more than 400 signatures.

Maloney said a better solution could be increasing the times wildlife patrol is present.

Additionally, Maloney reached out to members of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds was not present for the Feb. 3 meeting but echoed Maloney’s concerns in an email for whether the “no wake zone” was needed for the entire creek. Maloney said no notice had been given to local residents before the board proceeded with submitting the application. The Emerald Bay Homeowners Association had requested the “no wake zone” at the Jan. 6 Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting. And a public hearing was scheduled for Feb. 3.

While, Edds said, it worried him and the board that other residents of Panther Point weren’t aware of the push for the “no wake zone” before the Emerald Bay Homeowners Association requested a public hearing from the board, he said there would be ample opportunity throughout the process for residents who oppose the measure to voice their concerns.

Betsy Haywood, who serves as the no-wake coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said the application has been received. It’s open-ended, which allows for the exact location of the “no wake zone” to be modified to whatever “distance deemed appropriate.”

Concerned residents also still have a 60-day period to voice their support or opposition. Haywood said the resolution will be presented to the NC Wildlife Board of Commissioners on Feb. 27 at 9 a.m. in Raleigh. If the board votes to proceed with the measure, a notice of the rulemaking process will be published in the North Carolina Register in the April 1 edition. After its publication, the public can write or email their comments regarding the “no wake zone.”

The earliest date for a public hearing will be after April 15. Haywood added that the public hearing will be held in Rowan County to accommodate concerned parties and prevent them from traveling to Raleigh.

John Hess, a resident of Panther Point Road, said he and his wife live on property that has been in the family for more than 60 years. Since living there, Hess said he has never witnessed anyone being injured by a wake or being slung into a pier. That’s in relation to statements during the Feb. 3 meeting in which residents cited potential property damage from the wakes as well as the potential for people or children to hit docks while tubing or being pulled by a boat. Residents also expressed concern with tighter space in the creek for recreational activities due to the growing number of piers.

Hess said establishing a “no wake zone” for the entire creek would take away its recreational use and value, citing his fascination for watching wakeboarders and hearing the loudness from different boats as “part of living on the lake.”

“I learned to ski in that creek,” he said. “My children learned to ski and tube there. And my grandchildren are enjoying it.”

Hess acknowledged, however, the potential need for a “no-wake zone” at the end of the creek and near the community dock. The entire stretch, he said, “is absolutely ridiculous.”

Final adoption or rejection of the measure will be in July, but the measure, if approved, wouldn’t become effective until September, Haywood said.

Haywood said residents can contact wildlife commission board member Mike Johnson at (828) 328-5586 or Vice Chairman Monty Crump at (910) 206-5615.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at (704) 797-4246.

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