Community members have an opportunity to play a vital role in mapping out the future of Lake Mitchell's development, thanks to a new public survey.

The city of Mitchell unveiled an online lake survey earlier this week, which will guide North Dakota State University students in developing a Lake Mitchell Community Use Plan. Throughout the next eight months, a team of NDSU students will work with community members and the city of Mitchell to create a lake development plan.

The lake use plan came together after Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell recently secured a $15,000 grant to fund the group of NDSU students project. According to Powell, the survey will be open for the duration of the summer.

"The plan is part of a senior thesis project for a group of NDSU students studying landscape and architecture, which is heavily focused on lake development," Powell said. "They will hold public meetings with the City Council and Parks and Recreation Board during the process... It's exciting to see a plan for helping the lake with the help of participating community members input."

The list of questions included in the survey cover a wide spectrum of topics, ranging from the type of fish anglers hope to catch at Lake Mitchell to community members preferred boat dock locations. Powell said the lake use plan will also focus on developing recreation opportunities and water quality improvements.

In addition, City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein said the data collected from the survey and the lake use plan project will be used to aide the city in its Forward 2040 planning that was created through the ongoing Future IQ Community Vision Planning process.

Ellwein highlighted a particular question included in the Lake Mitchell survey that caught her eye, which asks how far survey participants live from Lake Mitchell.

"When we talk about the future of the lake, sometimes I feel that people think the only people who respond or care about the lake are people who live on it or very close by," Ellwein said, noting the largest percentage of respondents as of Wednesday were living in the 5- to 10-mile radius of the lake. "It shows a lot of people living in the community in residential areas care a lot about the lake and want to be a part of mapping out its future. We have a lot of input from the survey already, which has a wide age range of people."

In the first 24 hours of the survey opening on the city's website, Ellwein said there were 220 completed surveys. She feels the ongoing Future IQ Community Visioning process has helped spur more local engagement that's crossed over into community members voicing their suggestions and goals for the new Lake Mitchell survey.

"There were a number of things identified through the community vision and planning survey, and one of those things that stood out to people was Lake Mitchell. The lake was rated very high as an opportunity and threat for the city of MItchell's future," Ellwein said. "This will really help add more input and data to the city's plans for the lake."

For the next step of the plan, the team of NDSU students will tentatively meet with the Mitchell City Council on June 11. At that time, the students and City Council will have been able to analyze the initial data collected from the survey, which will be used to discuss how the community input will guide the group of students' lake use plan. According to Ellwein, the city's recent $4.1 million land purchase will also be included and considered in the students' lake use plan.

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said he's eager to take an in-depth look at the information collected in the survey. While Everson said a lot of his attention is focused on improving the water quality of Lake Mitchell, he said the lake use plan includes some important questions. For example, Everson said he likes the questions in the survey asking for new ideas for the city to consider adding to Lake Mitchell, such as a marina with fuel sales.

"I'm interested to see what new items people would like to see on or around the lake," Everson said. "I've heard people say they would like to see a restaurant on the lake shore somewhere, and those are things that could greatly impact our lake and overall city. This survey gives us a way to learn more about what community members would like to see on the lake, and then we can explore those avenues."

In efforts to utilize an in-state school, Everson said the city initially offered South Dakota State University to head the lake use plan. Because the group of SDSU students had conflicting schedules, Everson said NDSU was the next option.

He said he is looking forward to learning more about community members goals and suggestions for the future of Lake Mitchell.

"The more people that take the survey, the better, and we're very interested to look at the survey data," Everson said. "It's another piece of the puzzle we are adding to our efforts improving the lake."