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Beach area at lake to open for swimmers May 27

Brett Berntsen
bberntsen@daily-times.com
Anglers fish from a paddle boat June 5, 2015, at Farmington Lake. The lake opens for swimming later this month.

FARMINGTON – With the Brookside Pool remaining closed this summer, local swimmers can look to Farmington Lake for outdoor aquatic opportunities.

The city is nearing completion of a new beach access area and will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, May 27, Cory Styron, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said. Officials decided to open the lake for swimming after shuttering the pool at Brookside Park due to costly repairs that are needed for that facility.

Swimming had been banned in the reservoir, which serves as the city's source of drinking water, but councilors on Tuesday passed an ordinance allowing the activity.

Styron said the new beach area will feature lifeguards, designated swim zones, lap lanes and several floating platforms. Styron said the department is finalizing contracts with food trucks and concession stands, as well.

Red Apple Transit will provide bus service to the lake Mondays through Saturdays starting Saturday, May 28. Director Andrew Montoya said buses will pick up passengers at the Orchard Plaza station and transfer them to parks department vehicles along the entrance road to the lake.

“We won’t stop on the highway," Montoya said. "We don’t want kids running out into traffic."

But some lake users still don’t think the city's drinking water source is safe for swimming. Fishing from the shore on Wednesday afternoon, Farmington resident Paul Smith said he witnessed a man drown at the lake in 2009.

“He got pulled under,” Smith said. “Why would you want people swimming if you have things in here pumping water around?”

According to The Daily Times archives, the 19-year-old man drowned when he attempted to swim 50 feet to shore from a raft. Smith and other witnesses attempted to save the man but grew exhausted in the cold water, police stated in the article.

That incident occurred across the lake from the swimming area. Styron said the pumps that draw water from the reservoir are far enough away to prevent dangerous currents for swimmers at the new beach. A dive team also inspected the lake bottom for any safety factors such as steep drop-offs and obstructions, Styron added.

The swimming area marks the first phase of the city's $10 million master plan for the lake. Proposed future facilities include two campgrounds, five day-use areas and multiple trail systems. Styron said the beach project will be the city's only undertaking this year, but he think it will provide useful information moving forward.

"This is the first major thing out there," Styron said. "We'll see how it goes."

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.