After years—really decades—of planning, the opening of Round Hill’s Sleeter Lake Park is just weeks away. Now some neighbors are raising new concerns.
The 11-acre park, which the town has planned since 1989, is located about a mile south of Business Rt. 7 down Lakefield Road. After eight months of physical work, the town is planning for a grand opening in July. Visitors will be invited to use the property for passive recreation like fishing, picnicking and canoeing for the majority of the year from 7 a.m. to dusk. Although most residents are excited for the park to open, some are questioning how it will be patrolled and protected from rambunctious teens and law breakers.
John Fleming, a homeowner on Marbury Street in the Lakepoint Village neighborhood adjacent to the park, said that he’s already had multiple encounters with trespassers. On one occasion, he said he saw four teenagers going for a swim and then smoking marijuana. On two other occasions, he said his boat was stolen from his backyard and used on the lake. He also said that he’s seen people leaving the lake with dozens of fish, even though the bylaws of the Round Hill Owner’s Association, which owns the lake, allow catch-and-release fishing only.
Now, Fleming and about two-dozen other residents from the neighborhood, which sits about 500 feet from the park’s banks, are asking the town for answers.
“What are they going to do to prevent the trashing of it, the over fishing of it?” Fleming said. “The park is going to be a free-for-all.”
Fleming said that his real estate agent never told him about the town’s plans to open Sleeter Lake Park, something he said would have kept him from paying a $40,000 premium for the lot when he bought his home in 2016. “Nobody knew that they were opening that park back there,” he said.
A reason the neighborhood exists today is because developer Oak Hill Properties proffered the land to the town in 1990 with specific intent to build a park.
Dan Gruber, Fleming’s next-door neighbor, said that his real estate agent also failed to make note of the park when he bought his home in 2015. He said that recently he’s seen more trash than normal in the lake and “a lot more folks of the wrong caliber” using it.
“I can only imagine it’s going to get worse [once the park opens],” he said. “I personally feel a little bit helpless … because we don’t know what course of action to take.”
Joe Luppino, the president of the neighborhood’s HOA, said that when he moved into Lakepoint Village in 2013, his agent was more upfront with him about the park’s potential opening. “From the HOA’s perspective, we’ve always known that [the town might open a lakefront park],” he said.
Town Administrator Buster Nicholson said that the people allegedly engaging in illicit activities at the lake most likely aren’t accessing it via the park property, but through The Villages at Round Hill’s private dock behind Shrewsbury Court, which provides access to the neighborhood’s 1,100 homes. According to Luppino, the HOA is working to install more signage to make it clear that the dock is for residents only.
Nicholson mentioned that some of the recent activity on the lake could also be coming from people accessing it via another lakeside property where the owner allows more lenient access to the lake.
Nicholson said that it’s unlikely anyone is accessing and wreaking havoc on the lake from the town’s park property, since seven town staff members are there every day of the week working at the town’s wastewater treatment plant. He also said that the property gate is locked at dusk.
To further help police the property, the Town Council last week approved nearly $60,000of town-wide security enhancements that will include the installation of three security cameras on the property and install a temporary fence around the entire park by the end of June.
Nicholson said that if residents see any illegal activity occurring on park property, whether that’s now or once the park opens, they should call the Sheriff’s Office to report it.
For the next few weeks, the town and the Round Hill Owner’s Association will be finalizing a set of rules that will govern the use of the lake from the park property.
“When we open the park, we will have that down,” Nicholson said. “We’re not going to just open and be like, ‘there’s no rules here.’”