(The majority of the information in this article is copied from the Support Lake Wichita Web site).
The Wichita Lake Revitalization was the topic of speakers Tom Lang and Stephen Garner with the Wichita Lake Revitalization Committee. With the Revitalization of Lake Wichita being so near and dear to their hearts, Stephen Garner expressed how much they appreciate being a part of this community but in order for it to grow, it is vital to push this project forward.
The outpouring of the generosity of the people of Wichita Falls has been tremendous and continues to be the heart beat and motivation to keep them on tract to seeing this dream come to fruition.
Tom explained their first step is to excavate. After 4 years of fund raising, a 350 page application and many grueling hours of educating the public to get aboard, the 404 permit issued by the Army Corp of Engineers was received in July 2017. This permit allows the project to move forward. The project is planned out in phases which allow the committee time to raise funds for future phases.
The expansion of circle trail – Circle Trail will be connected from Barnett Road to Lake Wichita Park. A segment of which will be taken out over the water and include wildlife viewing and fishing stations ultimately diversifying the utilization of the trail. It includes the addition of a pedestrian bridge over the spillway and an extension of the trail down the entire east side of the lake increasing the public accessibility to any commercial development that occurs and the portion of the lake in that area.
Veterans Plaza – Texoma has a strong patriotic and military tradition, with more than 30,000 Veterans in the area, Shepard Air Force Base, and Ft. Sill Army Base. The Veteran’s Memorial Plaza at Lake Wichita is designed to provide everyone in our community the opportunity to simultaneously support Lake Wichita and our area Veterans. This area will be a gathering place for many wonderful outdoor events. This area will be a draw for the community and provide an opportunity to learn about our community’s and Nation’s military history. It will provide a scenic location for families and Veterans alike to enjoy the healing powers of nature and being outdoors. It will be accessible via the Circle Trail, the current boat ramp will be expanded to a four-lane boat ramp, there will be boat slips for 25 boats, a restroom, fish cleaning station, Lake Wichita Donor Recognition wall, trees, benches, and Lake Wichita historical marker. While the water is gone and the lake is being excavated two beach areas will be added to further enhance recreation. One beach will be located in Lake Wichita Park and the other will be located near the emergency spillway off of Kemp.
Since the quality of fishing is directly attributable to the quality of fisheries habitat. The excavation will increase the storage capacity and provide the water essential for their survival. Aquatic plants like American Pondweed will be reestablished, rock piles that will both protect the shoreline from erosion will also provide quality fish habitat, development of brush piles and placement of artificial structures will also aid in increasing the quality of the fish population and help bring the fish to the angler by being placed strategically with the end user in mind. Florida Largemouth Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass, White Crappie, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, and Channel Catfish populations are planned to be reestablished through stocking by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The combination of fish restocking and diverse habitat types, strategically placed, will aid in making Lake Wichita a booming fishery again!
Over 200 acres of wetlands and aquatic vegetation plantings are planned and will be strategically placed throughout Lake Wichita to maximize their benefits to water quality, wildlife viewing, the ecosystem, hunting, and fish and wildlife populations.
Lake Wichita is being built for the public and will be inundated with a plethora of public access options. The plan includes the development and refurbishing of four boat ramps, four jetties extending out into the water (which also serve to protect the shoreline from erosion), a floating fishing pier on the dam which will provide great access to the lake and the plan is to add three more of these down the dam effectively ensuring the entire dam provides great and safe access to the water.
Future development projects includes a Pavilion type structure being rebuilt at the old site on the dam, the addition of a tent camping area near Barnett Road, and finally the addition of a wake board park in conjunction with the beach area near the emergency spillway.
The Lake Wichita Revitalization Project is a tremendous movement to take Texas’ 3rd oldest reservoir, built in 1901, and return it to state in which it can provide significant social, economic, ecological, and recreational benefits to the community for another 100 years.
Tom said the Wichita Lake revitalization project is getting national attention because it is such a unique project. It could be a project that could get funding down the road if the Federal Government adds reservoirs to the infrastructure list.
This project will be a marathon project but the goal is to sprint until it’s done. You start with what you can handle while you continue to build relationships, acquire volunteers and find ways to raise more funds.