The reopening of the only public beach on Lake Murray is rekindling talk among some shoreline community leaders of the need for more public swimming sites, a wish unlikely to be granted soon.
We need more recreation points available for all interests, and that includes swimming, said Joy Downs of Ballentine, executive director of the Lake Murray Association.
Adding more beaches is a project that South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. is not willing to undertake on a lake whose operations it oversees.
We have no plan to do that, company spokesman Robert Yanity said Friday.
No swimming areas are included in the Cayce-based utilitys plan to open 13 recreation areas on the lake and lower Saluda River downstream over the next few decades.
That leaves the beach on the south side of the dam as the only spot available for anyone who doesnt live on the 650-mile shoreline or know someone who does.
But another beach would ease congestion at a site that attracts thousands of Midlands residents each summer, some community leaders say.
SCE&G doesnt count crowds at the beach, but says 40,000 vehicles with an unmeasured number of passengers paid admission last year. A study in 2005 estimated 125,000 people flock there each summer.
Swimming also is allowed at Dreher Island State Recreation Area near Prosperity on the north shore of the lake, but there is no designated area.
All recreation, including swimming, is at your own risk on the 47,500-acre manmade lake. There are no lifeguards at the public beach the last drowning there was in 2005 or elsewhere.
Building a new beach would be difficult, according to community leaders who have looked at the idea. Among the challenges they cite:
• Environmental restrictions ban removal of shoreline landscape, a step that reduces erosion that could damage water quality. Those limits also could prevent bringing in sand for a new beach.
• Many coves are too shallow, too narrow or surrounded by steep, rocky terrain.
• Storms and tides would wash away sand, making upkeep costly.
• Any location near neighborhoods is sure to run into opposition from residents concerned it would bring in unwanted traffic congestion, noise and litter.
Leaders of some waterfront groups suggest something simpler than a full-fledged beach similar to the one at the dam.
Some recreation areas already are unofficial swimming holes as families wade and splash about near docks there.
All that needs to be done, some neighborhood leaders say, is mark off swimming areas at some of the 13 recreation areas now open by putting in buoys to keep passing watercraft away.
That seems very plausible, said Steve Bell of Prosperity, leader of Lake Watch. It would seem beneficial to rope off some of these areas.
While the beach is popular, it is busy mainly on weekends and holidays, some community leaders say.
Five days a week, Lake Murray Association leader Dave Landis of Lexington said, you own it.
At the beach
The beach on Lake Murray on the south side of the dam is open daily through Sept. 13.
A cool spring makes it chilly to be in the water for long, but the 18-acre site on North Lake Drive (S.C. 6) is popular for picnics until temperatures warm up.
Admission ranges from $2 to $5 per vehicle regardless of the number of passengers depending on whether its a motorcycle, car or bus.
Alcoholic beverages are banned.
What do you think?
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.