Lake Wichita Revitalization Project: Phase 1

Lake Wichita Revitalization Project: Phase 1

Even though Lake Wichita is nearly full, plans are still in motion for the revitalization project.

The project began in May 2013.  Over two years later, phase one is still going on, which is planning.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's taking forever, but we're dealing with a project much larger than I ever expected," Steve Garner, Chairman of the Lake Wichita Revitalization Committee said.

The total cost of the project is between $35-45-million and like many projects, funds are the driving force.  So far $450,000 has been secured in commitments and donations from individuals and businesses.

"We're in the process of making applications for about $50-million in different funds, grants, and matching grants," he said.

Garner explained the city is also finalizing a contract with the engineering firm that is going to do the last remaining surveys and reports that are necessary for the permit.  So, there are still a lot of pre-planning kinks that need to be worked out before any excavating can begin.  Garner said it could be another year before that happens.  Still, he said this is an opportunity the city can't pass up.

"There is a real need for recreation in Wichita Falls and with this lake being right in our own backyard, it's a perfect place to do that," Garner said.

While some Texomans feel now isn't the right time to do the project, since the lake is nearly full, the fact is another drought will come and dry it out, which almost happened in 2014.  As Garner pointed out, you can see weeds coming up around the lake since it's so shallow.

Right now the average depth for Lake Wichita is four and a half feet and it's max depth is around seven feet.  The goal set by the lake revitalization committee after a series of studies was conducted, is to increase the average depth to nine feet.  For the max depth, they want it to be between 12-15 feet.  If they do any deeper, there is a concern about how well the lake would hold the water.

Excavating the lake isn't the only part of the project.  Committee members hope to open up new attractions for people to enjoy.

"We'd like some more fishing opportunities off the dam," Garner said.

They also are working on plans for a kayak, paddle boarding, canoe trail that would wind through the Lake Wichita Park.  Plus, on the east side, they want to see a development for restaurants.

"This project is going to keep people in town and give people a reason to move here," Garner said.

Making Lake Wichita a recreation destination will also bring more people from out of town to enjoy the lake.

To find out more about the Lake Revitalization Project, check out their website.  While you are there you can also make a donation to move the project forward.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6