New lake guidelines cause plenty of head-scratching

Jul. 22, 2013 @ 05:21 PM

City leaders say they’re puzzled by new state regulations for High Point’s municipal lakes.
The City Council recently approved new guidelines for Oak Hollow and High Point City lakes that allow stand-up paddleboarding. The activity — which involves standing on an oversized surf board and using a long-handled paddle to propel through the water — was a popular and growing sport on the lakes until the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources put a stop to it.
NCDENR has to approve all recreational activities for public drinking water supplies and has yet to do so for paddleboarding. City officials mistakenly thought it was covered under the approvals the state granted years ago that allow motorized boating and water skiing on the lakes.
The new guidelines are one step toward permitting the activity, but far from the only measure the city is having to take to allow for what is widely regarded as a benign activity that has nowhere near the potential impact on water quality as motor boating and water skiing.
The city will have to get permission from the N.C. Commission for Public Health after collecting water samples during several one-day paddleboarding events this summer.
If the samples show that paddleboarding — which generally involves minor, but unavoidable human contact with the water, usually when launching the board on to the lakes — doesn’t harm the water quality, then the sport should get the OK for good.
The city’s new guidelines, approved at the behest of NCDENR, prohibit “bodily contact with the water.” Some said this standard seemed too restrictive, because people typically get in the water to get their boats off their trailers, for example.
“I don’t think it’s possible to ride (a paddleboard) without getting in the water,” said City Councilman Jay Wagner. “Our policy already prohibits swimming. We’re approving a rule that’s just simply not possible. This sets it up where somebody could be a real stickler for the rules, and it causes problems down the road.”
City officials said they had no discretion to modify the guidelines, because NCDENR might not approve them otherwise. They stressed that park rangers won’t go out of their way to cite a paddleboarder who dips their toe into the water. 
“I think the reality is still going to be that we’re going to try to enforce things that make sense,” said Assistant City Manager Pat Pate. “This is the quickest way for us to approve paddleboarding back on the lakes. I think our guys do a good job being reasonable with folks out there.”
City officials are trying to secure a spot on the N.C. Commission for Public Health’s August agenda, said Lee Tillery, assistant parks and recreation director. 
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to show it doesn’t have an adverse impact,” said Tillery. “A lot of people are enjoying (paddleboarding) and we think we have a great venue for it.”