CRAB ORCHARD — Lincoln residents hoping to beat the heat with a visit to the beach on Cedar Creek Lake will now have to find somewhere else to cool off.
While the beach has been closed and swimming prohibited for years, the closure has not been enforced and the small sandy shore near U.S. 150 is regularly visited by many people.
But beginning a few days ago, state Fish and Wildlife officials began enforcing the closure, telling beach-goers the beach is closed.
John Williams with Fish and Wildlife said several recent incidents involving law enforcement at the beach and lake caused the crackdown.
Trash has been an issue at the beach, and there have also been problems with the location being used as a "party spot," Williams said.
"People use it as an ash tray for their cigarettes," he said.
Lincoln County Judge-Executive Jim Adams said a recent incident where an infant got water in its lungs and stopped breathing was one problem at the beach that drew the attention of Fish and Wildlife.
Adams said when the beach was initially constructed many years ago, the county failed to understand the costs that would be required to keep the beach maintained and open.
County leaders at the time thought they "could develop a beach with just sand, more or less," Adams said.
Fish and Wildlife, which owns the entirety of the lake including a 300-foot buffer zone from the high-water mark, leased the beach area to the county, but soon after the sand was put in, the Department of Health and Human Services shut the beach down due to a lack of restrooms, lifeguards and other requirements.
The signs prohibiting use of of the beach haven't stopped people from using it — more than a dozen people were swimming in the lake, floating on noodles and sitting on the beach Friday afternoon around 3 p.m.
Now things have reached a point where enforcement is necessary, Adams said.
"It's getting to be a real danger out there," he said. "It's gotten to be a pretty nasty place from what I've been told."
Adams said Lincoln Fiscal Court will hold a special called meeting 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the beach and he expects the court will vote against spending any money to fix it up.
In order to open the beach, the county would have to cover the costs of installing and maintaining bathrooms and a permanent phone, hiring lifeguards, roping off areas and "all kinds of equipment," he said.
"We just don't have it in our budget," he added.
Williams said it's possible the space could be made into a fishing spot in the future.
For now, Fish and Wildlife officers will be warning anyone at the beach that the beach is closed.
There will be a public notification campaign, and once Fish and Wildlife feels the public has been adequately notified, officers will begin enforcing the closure with penalties, Williams said.