In May 2010, the Northside Sun reported that officials and police at the Barnett Reservoir were preparing for approximately 500 boats to make their way to the body of water near Old Trace Park for Pepsi Pops.
May is typically the beginning of the Barnett Reservoir’s “busy season,” kicking off with Pepsi Pops.
The 2020 event would have been the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s 39th annual concert at the reservoir.
Ten years later Reservoir Police Lt. Trevell Dixon said the department had anticipated a similar turnout for this year’s event and for the busy season to get underway. That was before coronavirus hit.
According to President and Executive Director of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Michael Beattie, Pepsi Pops has been delayed, but he does not see a possible date for rescheduling at this time, as Gov. Tate Reeves’ recent order still limits outdoor groups to no more than 20 people.
“We’re seeing fewer boats, and the larger activities have been canceled because they will have more than 20 people,” said Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) Executive Director John Sigman.
Last week, the reservoir reopened its parks.
“We will see how the social distancing goes there,” Sigman said. “Most everybody has been pretty cooperative.”
However, despite the reopening of parks and the lake to recreational activities, Sigman predicts this summer will be different from years past due to COVID-19.
“This year will be different than anything we have experienced in the past,” Sigman said. “There has been an increase in boaters over the years, no doubt. But I think this year, we will see a diminished number of people out there.”
So far, fishing tournaments are still being banned at the reservoir based on the governor’s order.
The Reservoir Police Department, which has grown over the past 10 years, remains ready for summer activities to begin whether there are more people on the lake or not.
“We have six boats that we operate readily available,” Dixon said.
They have 12 full-time patrol officers, seven officers in the campground patrol and reserve officers.
“Even with coronavirus, things haven’t really changed much,” Dixon said of boat traffic. “People are still coming out here to enjoy the recreational aspects of the lake. Of course, with Memorial Day coming up, that will be our busiest time. It’s the first holiday day of the summer.”
“It will probably be summer starting early for us,” Dixon added.
The biggest challenge for the Reservoir Police Department is still dealing with safety not necessarily related to coronavirus.
“We have 33,000 acres of water, and also patrol 104 miles of shoreline, so when you take into account the manpower that we have and being able to respond on the water and on land to incidents, that can sometimes be a challenge,” Dixon said.
As summer recreation gets underway, Dixon is reminding reservoir visitors to stay safe while enjoying the lake.
“We always request that everyone wear a life jacket, because they do save lives,” he said. “They can make the difference on a bad weather day.”
Sigman is hopeful that residents will continue to take advantage of recreational activities at the reservoir.
“The reservoir is a great place to come for boating, recreation, fishing, whatever you have in mind, and I encourage everyone to continue to do that,” Sigman said. “Our staff morale is still high. We look forward to people coming out and enjoying themselves and behaving themselves. We hope we can get past this and get back to large events in the parks and fishing tournaments as soon as we can.”