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Lake Mitchell meeting ends with major reduction in boat ramp project

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A Friday stroll along the shore of Lake Mitchell ended with a new, smaller plan for a city project at the lake.

Mayor Ken Tracy, along with members of the City Council, the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee, city staffers and some concerned residents, walked and talked as they negotiated an agreement on the future of the shoreline.

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It will greatly reduce the scale of a project that has been under discussion for more than a year. The plan had generated some public opposition in the past month.

At Monday's City Council meeting, when the issue was discussed, Councilman Dan Allen suggested a meeting at the lake Friday. On Tuesday, Tracy agreed to call for the meeting and invited anyone who wanted to attend to come and take part. It was a casual, at times freewheeling meeting, as 14 men walked along the shore from the Sportsmen's Club to the Day Camp, engaging in discussions, examining trees and joking about the heat, which neared 100. Tracy said most trees in the area will be preserved and efforts will be made to replace any that are cut down. "I'd take out as few trees as you can," said citizen Mike Kuchera. Tracy said if possible, the project will get under way this fall and city staffers will do it.

Originally, the project would have relocated the ramp access area just east of the Sportsmen's Club.

The access area would have been shifted from the east side of the inlet to the west side, a double-lane concrete boat ramp would have been installed, a paved lot would have been added with space for about 30 boat trailers, and an access loop would have been built to ease the loading and unloading of boats.

The site would also have had access to the existing sewer and water lines from the nearby Sportsmen's Club, which the city makes available for group rentals.

The city would also have placed clay into the lake to extend the shoreline 20 feet out in the 500-foot area between the Sportsmen's Club and the Day Camp.

That would have allowed the city to add a parking lane, a walking lane and green space.

Public Works Director Tim McGannon said the majority of the project, which started with Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee discussions in 2011, will now be scrapped.

"My understanding is that is off, now," McGannon said.

He said the shoreline will, for the most part, be undisturbed.

The goal now is to remove as few trees as possible, provide a clear and safe walkway along the road, stabilize the shore, and improve existing parking.

Some rock jetties will be added to help reduce erosion and allow anglers access to deeper water.

"It's fine with me. This project came to us, it didn't start with us," McGannon said. "We just wanted to provide a plan. This is good."

The city's plan was publicly opposed by some people who live along the lake and others who wanted to preserve trees, fish habitat and the current status.

Tim Allen, the co-organizer of the Poorman's Fishing Tournament, was against the project and attended the shoreline meeting Friday.

His brother, Councilman Dan Allen, was also present, but Tim Allen did much more talking.

Tim Allen said he opposed extending the shoreline because of a concern about the declining population of bluegill in the lake.

The fish spawns in shallow water, he said.

Kuchera, who also opposed the project at council meetings, stood with Tracy most of the time Friday and pointed out trees he thought should be saved while also emphasizing the need to preserve fish habitat.

Tim Allen, Kuchera, Sherry Stilley and others had worked together to change the city's plans.

Two years ago, a group was formed to oppose the Mitchell City Council's attempted swap of a different wooded tract of land near the lake.

A ballot initiative was later passed that designated all publicly owned land around the lake as park land.

At the end of the one-hour meeting Friday, Kuchera shook hands with Dusty Rodiek, the city park and recreation director, and said he felt the city and the people interested in preserving things largely as they are now can work together in the future.

Tracy agreed.

"I think we made significant progress," he said.

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