By Rachel Lambert and Carly Owen
Spring has arrived and brought warm weather with it, and many Oxford citizens and Ole Miss students plan to spend their time at Sardis Lake.
Sardis is a staple in the Oxford community, and community members and students alike go there to have fun. Sometimes this fun can include alcohol, and Brian Johnson, a supervisory ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers which sets the rules, warns against its consumption at Sardis.
“Of course we don’t allow alcohol on our property and Lafayette county is a dry county,” Johnson said. “The people know this, but it’s hard to catch everyone.”
Johnson listed illegal operation of ATVs (mainly to do with helmets, or lack of), alcohol consumption, shooting guns and littering as the main violations rangers run into at Sardis. While these may seem like small offenses to some, when combined they can be a recipe for dangerous situations.
“We’ve had ATV accidents where helicopters have to come,” Johnson said. “We don’t carry weapons, and we get calls about people out shooting. People are just trying to walk their dogs and have bullets flying by their heads.”
Last spring, the Corps implemented concrete blockades at the County Road 314 or “road’s end” entrance, deterring cars from accessing the beach. This was done to help prevent accidents, and there is a dirt and gravel-filled area designated for parking.
“The parking lot was added to curb some of the illegal activity,” Johnson said. “When you have a group out drinking and shooting they won’t go 20 feet away from their trucks, because they want to be able to hide it if they see us coming. So when we prevent them from getting to the shoreline they won’t want to carry their coolers and guns that far away from the vehicles.”
The Corps did not install these blockades to keep students out, as many have speculated. Pedestrian access is still allowed.
“It’s not just students who break the rules, it’s all ages,” Johnson said. “And the parking lot is not a punishment; it’s an improvement. It has helped us a lot.”
The Corps’ goal with the addition was to create a safe environment and to make the lake more enjoyable for visitors. Despite the goal, some students still do not see it that way. Brazel Crocker, of Biloxi, Miss believes the blockades take away from the experience.
“A day at Sardis is a tradition that my parents had that I don’t believes we get to experience any longer,” Crocker said. “The blockades have made Sardis inaccessible; the experience isn’t even an experience any longer and only reminds me of the amazing times we can’t have anymore.”
Ranger Johnson believes it is still possible to have fun and be safe. He also offered advice to people who want to enjoy Sardis.
“Alcohol and water don’t mix. Always try to leave the lake better than you found it,” Johnson said.
The rules and regulations are displayed on signs at each entrance to the lake, but they are also posted online. Oxford resident Drew Chiles sees the importance of rules, but questions some.
“Everyone should follow the rules,” Chiles said. “But the rules should also reasonably reflect the culture. Lots of people who are not students go to the lake to drink beer, listen to music and shoot guns. It’s Mississippi, ya know?”