After 90 minutes of public discussion about whether to allow swimming in Lake Ming, the Kern County Parks and Recreation Commission decided Wednesday night on a public survey and to investigate lowering the penalty for taking a dip from a misdemeanor to an infraction.
More than a dozen people spoke at the meeting — nearly all against the idea of allowing swimming, saying it would be too dangerous for swimmers. Currently, only boating, fishing and waterskiing are allowed on the lake.
The proposal to allow swimming arose after Kern County park rangers raised the issue of safety. Without a designated swimming area, people who illegally swim are out among the boats, putting them at risk of being struck by watercraft, said ranger Ron Rice.
Rangers patrol Kern County’s regional parks, including Hart Memorial Park and the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area, both of which allow swimming.
No one is patrolling Lake Ming at all times, Rice said.
The rangers want to corral swimmers into an area buoyed off to protect them from boats, Rice said.
Boaters who attended the meeting felt otherwise.
Sharon Kruz said she has been boating in Lake Ming for years and felt inviting swimmers into the lake — even in a designated area — would be dangerous, saying she didn’t believe swimmers would stay behind buoys.
“They are human. They don’t follow the rules,” she said. “... It’s sad that people don’t follow the rules these days.”
Theresa Schmidt said her family has boated at Lake Ming for years and called it her “slice of heaven.”
“We like going out there because it’s beautiful,” she said. “I’d hate to see it ruined by overpopulation.”
Rice argued that people will swim no matter what the rules are, so he wanted to provide a safer area for them to do it.
Shannon Ely said allowing swimming in the area was not the answer, but perhaps actually reprimanding those who are already breaking the law would be.
Allowing swimming “is like saying just because everyone speeds we should raise the speed limit,” Ely said.
The commission cannot take action, but only make recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors. The commission meets again March 26.