The lake-related developments Lawton town officials have been discussing for years may finally be on the horizon.
City officials have scheduled a town hall meeting Monday to encourage residents to throw their ideas into the pot, as design contractor Halff Associates nears completion of a master plan for Lake Lawtonka and the lake. Ellsworth. Although the lakes are Lawton’s primary sources of raw water, they also provide an array of recreational opportunities, from hunting and fishing, to camping and boating, to picnicking and hiking. bike. City officials had long wanted more, which was one of the driving factors when City Council ordered Halff Associates to create a Lakes Master Plan.
The company has already created Lawton’s parks, sports and recreation, trails and open space master plan for recreational activities associated with the town proper, and has been asked to create a master plan for the lakes, as well as master plans for Elmer Thomas Park and the city’s aquatic facilities.
Parks and Recreation Director Christine James said Monday’s session is the public meeting where residents will be encouraged to provide feedback on the city’s lakes. Some ideas have already been worked out, and meeting attendees will “vote” on their preferences, review the suggestions, and put green dots on the ones they like and red dots on the ones “they don’t want to see”. Residents will also be invited to make their own suggestions.
The floor is wide open, James said.
“Our overall goal is for the lakes to be self-generating,” James said, explaining that the city wants amenities that generate revenue that can be reinvested in maintenance and improvements. “And, having a tourist spot, so that people from everywhere have a reason to come and enjoy our lakes.”
James said Halff and city staff are open to any credible suggestions. Over the years, city staff and residents have come up with ideas ranging from canoes and kayaks for rent; additional camping pitches for tents and motorhomes; and small cabins/cabins placed in heavily wooded areas along the shore of the lake. Those interested in fishing still want more fishing piers and other designated spaces, while hikers suggested creating walking/biking trails along the shore.
James said the lakes are adjacent to other areas that already provide recreational opportunities, including Medicine Park (which hosts many festivals and music events throughout the year) and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Cycle paths have also been created through the region by different entities.
“Everything is on the table right now,” James said. “We would definitely like more commendable gear.”
One of the greatest opportunities may be presented by School House Slough, the town’s concession on the east side of Lake Lawtonka along Oklahoma 58. Local businessman Kent Waller holds the concession lease on the area since May 1997, but this is his last term.
“He’s not extending when that lease expires at the end of the year,” James said.
The most immediate effect for the City of Lawton is for tenants in the concession, who have leases with School House Slough Inc. Those leases will expire when Waller’s lease expires on Dec. 31. So council members asked city staff to negotiate temporary leases with tenants. , extending the leases through 2023 until the city decides what to do with the concession area.
“We’ll wait for that (master plan) document to see what the city has in store before moving forward,” Deputy City Manager Dewayne Burk said of the long-term plans for tenants.
Burk said the leases will be extended under existing arrangements, meaning fees will remain the same. Any action to raise the fee “would be a board decision,” he said.
James said she expects the temporary leases to be extended by four to six months, giving city officials time to figure out their long-term plan. She said that while there are boat ramps and campsites, the RV area is the most densely populated.
“It was a heavily used area,” she said of the Slough, adding that means city officials need to step back to analyze the plans before deciding how the city can make the most of it. improvements.
This is true of all proposed lake plans, she says.
“There’s no reason the lakes can’t be self-sufficient,” James said.
Nate Clair, project manager for Halff Associates, said in August that his company was completing its data collection phase, which is why it is entering the public comment period. James said city staff hope the document will be reviewed by Thanksgiving. Within that timeframe, the plan could be submitted to various city entities for approval in early 2023 — November and December are a notoriously difficult time to hold meetings, she said.
In the meantime, lake activity will continue as usual, albeit at a slower pace that typically marks the region’s cooler months.
“It gives us the opportunity to pause and think about where we want to go,” James said. “There won’t be huge changes right off the bat.”