Would that be a good name for a resort area being envisioned on the lake west of Lawrence?
A feasibility report released by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks singles out Clinton Lake as having "the most significant development opportunities" in the state for a vacation resort. That may be true, but there still seem to be many questions to be answered before the state proceeds with plans for what it estimates would be a $45.85 million project.
The plan calls for three 200-room hotels and three conference-education centers. Yet the report concludes that the development shouldn't aim at attracting conventions because there are existing convention centers in Kansas City and Topeka. If the state doesn't plan to book even mid-sized conventions, how does it plan to fully utilize 600 hotel rooms and three conference centers? Could a resort near Lawrence, Kansas, really attract enough tourists to be financially feasible? Would KU be able to host a sizable number of new gatherings if sich a facility were available?
Wildlife and Parks also envisions the project being funded with a mix of public and private funds. Hopefully that mix will be heavy on the private and light on the public money. The real test of whether a project like this is feasible is how many private developers are willing to invest their own money in it. The proposed resort would be located in the state park area, and there's nothing wrong with the state providing some land for the development, but it should be careful not to sink too many tax dollars into a concept that is relatively untested in the Midwest.
Another concern to be noted is the effect of such a sizable development on Clinton Lake. The state park area one of the most accessible public use areas from Lawrence probably would be almost taken over by the resort. Of course, Lawrence residents should realize Clinton does not belong exclusively to them. It is a public facility, open to all who wish to visit and use the recreation area. But the development would have a significant impact on Lawrence residents and others who like to drive out to the lake on a Sunday afternoon for a picnic or swim. Would additional beach and camping facilities be built to make up for those that probably would be lost to the resort development?
A local tourism official referred to the resort proposal as an "exciting concept." The idea of a lovely resort with nice restaurant and convention facilities drawing people and dollars from miles around to the scenic shore of Clinton Lake is indeed a tantalizing prospect. It could be a wonderful asset for Kansas University and Lawrence or it could be a tax-supported fiasco.
Careful planning and a hard look at the financial feasibility of such a project are the key to its success or failure.