Traffic, dredging focus of lake improvement meeting

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Nevada Daily Mail

Designated fishing areas, bike trails, new working restrooms and pedestrian bridges over the lake are all plans for improvements at Katy Allen Lake.

Representatives from the Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission and the Vernon County Commission met Wednesday to discuss plans for upgrades to the lakefront area. Individuals from On My Own, 3M, Healthy Nevada were also present to offer input for suggested improvements.

Sydney Allen, a Kaysinger regional planner on the project, presented a plan for the lake area based on feedback she heard at the last meeting in October. Allen said the plan was a rough draft, and suggested items like park benches, fishing spots and a playground could be rearranged or dropped from the plan if those at the meeting wished to do so.

"This is not my plan. This is you guys' park plan," Allen said. "We want you to have a say in every single step of the way. We want this area to be something that everyone's happy with and is the most possible user-friendly area around," Allen said.

Allen said the first idea for the project would be closing the road at the lakefront and turning it into a multimodal path, which could accommodate walkers and bikers. That path would travel around the entire lake, with assistance from two pedestrian bridges over the water.

Two other roads would be modified; Allen said she took suggestions from many residents about congestion on the road between the backside of the lake and the youth fairgrounds. She suggested creating an alternative entrance to the lake.

"It's feasible to make another entrance behind the Vernon County Sheriff's Office and Commerce Street," she said.

Many at the meeting agreed that new entrance could alleviate traffic during the summer and improve safety at the fairgrounds. Commissioner Neal Gerster said speeding vehicles through the fairgrounds are a regular concern during fair season.

"I've seen trucks come through doing 50 to 60 miles per hour through the barns. You have kids running from the horse barn to the dog barn to the rabbit barn. They're going back and forth all the time during the fair. It gets a little dangerous through there if somebody's showing off coming through," he said.

Camping pads with hookups for RVs near that road were discussed, specifically regarding placement. The proposed sites would have enough space for two campers, but were situated across from the lake on fairground property. Gerster said that selected area could cause problems.

"One thing that everybody here needs to know is that when that piece of land was deeded to the county, it had a lot of deed restrictions, primarily youth use. So what you can build there is pretty limited," he said.

Gerster said that if the camping spots were used for youth events or programs, there would likely be no problems. But, if the camping pads were open to anyone passing through the area, there would need to be discussion on whether that were possible, and how to manage the spots and receive payment for used water and electricity.

On the lakefront, seating areas and designated fishing spots were included in the plan. Gerster suggested adding pavilions for families fishing and picnicking for the day. Talk about the fishing spots led realtor Jason Hedges to bring up discussion of improvements to the lake.

"If you go out there now, it's really pretty. But it won't be come July," Hedges said. He suggested dredging the lake could help beautify the lake while making it deeper. Hedges said the remaining soil from dredging Katy Allen Lake could then be used to help construct the fishing piers.

Tom Hissink said it would be necessary to complete any dredging or improvements to the body of water before building trails and other features.

"Raising the lake five feet changes a lot. We need to decide on the lake level before putting anything in here," he said.

Commissioner Bonnie McCord said the lake had previously been five feet higher, and that the commission has received several studies discussing dredging.

"There have been some studies over the years done by the conservation department, and they did mention it," Commissioner Bonnie McCord said.

Commissioners said they would work with Kaysinger Basin planners and engineers to understand what improvements may need to be done to the dam and lake itself. That information will be reported back at the next lake improvement meeting.

The project is expected to be broken into two phases. Phase one will include construction of the trails and bridges, and improvement of the dam. It may also include construction of a new parking area. Phase two will incorporate a bike path, and expand on the new access road between the lake and the Sheriff's Office.

Kaysinger Executive Director Austin Mount said he and his staff are looking at funding options for all of the suggested projects, but that the county should expect to come up with a 25 percent match for grants. Mount said for a project of this magnitude, which could cost between $200,000 and $300,000, nearly $75,000 would need to be set aside.

Further exploration into issues with the lake, such as any contamination and dredging is expected to start before phase one, but Mount said progress on improvements shouldn't be impacted by work on the lake.

"That shouldn't hold back progress on everything else," he said.

Another meeting on the lake improvements will be held this summer with more concrete plans and feedback from lake studies. No official date has been set.

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