This post is in no way an official representation of Trail Hawks policy or stance on any issue. It is just one member's opinion.
At one of these Whitewater Center meetings last October, Linda Craghead, assistant secretary of parks and tourism, said she would love to see alternative ideas to help the parks make some money. So I sent her the following email with a few ideas for less expensive, less intrusive ideas for methods that could be instituted in many parks, trying to be positive and encouraging as possible.
Linda never responded ... not even a "thank you" for sending.
In my opinion, there are many other ways to capitalize on what the parks have to offer, rather than destroying it. Here is my email to Linda from October, with a few of those ideas.
I enjoyed meeting and talking with you Tuesday night, and sharing a laugh. I think you're doing a great job in your endeavor to help the park system pay its way, and introduce younger generations to the outdoor lifestyle.
I want to follow up on some of the ideas I mentioned for less invasive; and in my opinion, easier to make happen, than the white-water park. I doubt many of these ideas will bring in a million dollars a day from the outset, but I think they have the potential, over time, to help achieve your goals.
Boat tours: Pontoon or amphib boat tours of lakes are nothing new. I bet we could find some operators willing to come in and discuss possibilities of setting up shop at one of the marinas. Fishing charters, weddings-on-the-water, are other ways such a franchise could bring in revenue. And what about para-sailing for the adventurous?
Concession stand: With people arriving for boat rides, it makes sense to have a marina concession stand. If it's successful, it might evolve into a small restaurant. Such a stand could also cater to other park users, particularly bikers -- even without a boat-tour operation. Again, I'm confident there are vendors who would at least be willing to discuss setting up shop here.
Outdoor drama: Many parks and reservations feature historical outdoor dramas. Clinton could easily host one about Quantrill's Raid. KU would no doubt jump at the chance for practical performing experience for its students. I'm certain Theater Lawrence would love to be involved. A mobile trailer-stage on one of the day-use area lawns is all you'd need -- maybe not even that. My degree is in theater. I'd be delighted to write a script on spec -- that is, no payment until the show becomes a proven success. The park could host other small-company dramatic events as well.
Star gazing: You mentioned that Kansas has a lot to offer, and that we need to make people aware of that. One thing Clinton Lake in particular has to offer is refuge from noise and light pollution. You may not know it, but atop Bunker Hill is a concrete "patio." It's actually the cap for the disused reservoir housed in the hill. We could convert the mowed path leading up to it into a permanent soft trail, and use that concrete area for star gazing. It could also be expanded. I think it's about 20 X 30 feet right now. My wife and I go up there every year to watch the Perseid meteor shower. It could be a great place for amateur astronomers to hold events -- they do that; the astronomers I know are always looking for an unused field under dark skies that isn't private property. As you may know, dark skies are increasingly hard to find, even in Kansas.
Bike rental: I'm guessing most people have bikes already, but for the few who don't, why not have a few bikes ready? One more amenity for campers or other visitors.
Kayak and peddle-boat rental: Kayaking is becoming huge. I bet plenty would like to try it first as a rental, before plunking down several hundred bucks to buy their own. Maybe have an instructor and an actual course in conjunction with Lawrence Parks and Rec as well. I've seen parks with water areas a tenth the size of Clinton Lake that make money renting peddle boats. No instruction needed there.
Volunteer Study Group: I also suggest creating a volunteer study group to add to these ideas, and recommend ways to pursue them to the park's advantage. You had a nice group of smart people at the meeting Tuesday night. I'm confident most of them would leap at the chance to try to find ways to help meet the two goals you've outlined. I know I would!
These ideas can be instituted individually or together. Obviously they need discussion, study and planning, but I believe any one of them is more feasible than the water park, which among its other disadvantages, would reduce the park's current revenue for an extended time during construction, as few people would want to spend precious recreational time at or near a construction site -- especially one as vast as white-water looks to be.
Well, my objections to the water park are considerable, but must be the subject of another email. This one is about ideas; positive ways to achieve your goals in harmony with and capitalizing on the wonderful things the park already offers.