Last year people were very excited for Mecklenburg County’s first public beach to open.
So many people wanted to check it out that in fact, the volume of beachgoers overwhelmed the surrounding infrastructure resulting in overcrowding and a parking nightmare.
The inedible icing on the disappointment cake was a water quality test in the middle of July that showed elevated levels of fecal coliform* which shut down the beach for a prime weekend.
After that false start, the county seemed determined to improve on last year’s logistical issues this year.
To address the volume of cars, the county added 50 new parking spaces and a free shuttle service CATS and Parks and Rec set up for beachgoers. A new stoplight at Catawba Avenue and Nantz Road should better manage the traffic at a nearby intersection.
Finally, the price for Mecklenburg County residents to park increased to $10 per car from $3 last year, which could curb demand.
Last year’s media coverage of the beach saga was enough to keep me away. It seemed like too much drama to endure just to say you went to the beach in Charlotte and take a picture of your feet to post on Instagram**.
But with summertime weather already here on the beach’s opening weekend, my wife and I packed up our gear and sand-loving three year old and headed north.
While sitting in I-77 traffic, I was fairly certain sure we would get close to the park, observe a disaster and ultimately decide to turn around and return home to jump through the sprinkler for our fun in the sun.
What we found was a well oiled machine with plenty of capacity thanks to a parks department apparently determined to right the wrongs of last season.
Perhaps it ran smoothly because peak beach season is still a few weeks away, or perhaps people were staying away because of how last year went.
Leading into the park there were plenty of signs indicating that under no circumstances were beach goers supposed to park there. Once you pay your $10 all beachgoers receive wristbands that must be worn in the beach area.
There was ample parking and I was even able to grab a spot in the front row of the lot.
Once parked, you realize that the beach itself really isn’t very big.
If you’re expecting a large expanse of sand in which to plant an umbrella and stake your claim, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But it’s sand and water in Charlotte and for what it is the beach is very nicely executed.
The sweet spot for the beach is families with young kids who want to cram a beach vacation in between lunch and naptime, or for anyone hoping to quietly catch some rays and read while soaking up the beach ambiance.
If you’re looking to blow out a flip flop on a one way pontoon to Margaritaville, you’re better served elsewhere on the Lake. This beach wasn’t designed with that scene in mind.
All things considered, it seems like last year’s issues have been ironed out (and I hope for neighbors’ sake they have). Keep an eye on the situation during prime beach season, but kudos to the county for addressing concerns and making a slice of the shore available to everyone.
When: Open now through Labor Day
Where: 18441 Nantz Road, Cornelius, NC, 28031
Why: Because the proletariat enjoys the beach too
*that’s water with poo in it to laypersons like you and me