Why Jordan Lake recreational areas won’t all be open until July 1

by Leslie Stewart

Pittsboro, NC – Like many of you, I’m anxious for the parks at Jordan Lake to re-open.  I mistakenly thought that they were going to open on May 8 and planned a picnic with my mom for Mother’s Day–only to find that all of the entrances were closed.  I was disappointed and emailed the parks department to find out what was up with the parks. 

photo by Kate Hliznitsova

I’ve copied the considerate and well reasoned response I received from Jay Greenwood, district superintendent, below.  His message gave me a far greater appreciation of what’s involved in opening the parks. 

Contact information for Mr. Greenwood is provided at the end of the message in case anyone wants to contact him.

Please be aware that we are only in the first phase.  During the first phase there  are 3 boat ramps open at Jordan Lake,. 1. Robeson Creek, (Middle) 2. Poe’s Ridge (South end),and  3. Farrington (North end). This past weekend was the first since the closures due to the pandemic in which three ramps were open.  We saw moderate crowds at those locations.  We are trying to meet the needs of our visitors as we also must protect our visitors and our staff from COVID-19.

Robeson Creek canoe ramp

We all look forward to getting back to some normalcy, but in the mean time we ask everyone to be patient as we move to open all facilities by the end of our phases.

Department/Division is actively trying to obtain enough PPE for Jordan Lake State Recreation Area and the other 34 parks and three recreation areas in the State Park system.  PPE is very difficult to find, but essential to operations. Our park staff will be task with cleaning , maintaining and removing bodily fluids from potential infectious bathrooms. It would be very challenging for park staff without the amount of PPE needed to clean 45 public restrooms without a phased opening.  Park visitors have asked could the parks be open, but close the bathrooms. We have tried that approach and some visitors started urinating and defecating next to and around our bathroom facilities creating another health hazard.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is a large and complex operation. It consists of nine recreation areas (6,000 acres), two satellite areas, Deep River (1,118 acres) and Lower Haw Natural Area (1,227 acres),  four wastewater plants, nine wastewater lagoons, forty-two sewer pump stations containing eighty-four pumps, one sub surface system, sixty-eight acres of above ground spray fields, and approximately thirty-eight miles of gravity and force main sewer lines accommodating approximately 45 public restrooms, 1,100 campsites, 11 group campsites, 26 hike-in primitive campsites, 11 picnic shelters.  Jordan Lake Recreation Area amenities also includes: two 24-hour boat areas, a canoe access, 7 swimming areas, 11 boat ramps, an outdoor event center that accommodates 500 people and many miles of hiking trails, with annual attendance of over 1.5 million visitors.

As you can see our park staff has a lot of responsibility managing this vast operation. We would love to be fully open with park visitors enjoying the resources, but that is not possible with the threat of COVID-19. Our Department/Division has  incorporated a thoughtful and tactfully phased opening. The phased openings focus on employee/visitor safety and not overwhelming the facilities.

I know these have been tough times for many people. Everyone wants an outlet and enjoying State Parks for many is that outlet.  Park staff would love to be fully open with park visitors enjoying the resources, however we must be safe in doing so.  We ask for some patience and understanding while trying to navigate through these difficult times and phased re-openings.

Thank you

*Jay Greenwood *
South District Superintendent
North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
12700 Bayleaf Church Road
Raleigh, NC 27614
Phone: 919-841-4059
Cell: 919-608-2847