The leader of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has begun exploring the feasibility of a resort development at Clinton Lake.
“We’re still in the beginning stages, but I can tell you that it is an idea that is very important to me,” said Robin Jennison, KDWPT secretary.
Jennison confirmed he has met with state Rep. Tom Sloan, state Sen. Marci Francisco, and various city leaders about the idea of a major lodging and resort development located inside Clinton Lake State Park, which is just west of Lawrence.
“With K-10 (the South Lawrence Trafficway) on track to be completed, that really adds to the potential of Clinton,” Jennison said. “Clinton is one of our great lakes. It may have one of the nicest marinas in the state, it has a stable water source, and it is close to a vibrant community. It has a lot going for it that would be attractive for a resort.”
Jennison, however, said it likely would be at least another year before the state is ready to begin accepting proposals from private developers interested in building a resort.
He said the next step in the process is having more detailed discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Jennison said he is optimistic the corps will be open to a long-term lease for a resort on federal land at the lake.
The last time a resort project was seriously considered at Clinton was in 2001, and the issue of a long-term lease was a stumbling block, Jennison said. The cost to extend city water and sewer service to Clinton State Park also was a concern.
But Jennison thinks new corps policies will help with the lease issue, and he said the Lawrence city limits is significantly closer to the state park than it was in 2001.
“Plus, I think our timing may be right,” Jennison said. “The potential growth the city is talking about with a new sports complex could tie in very well with what we want to do.”
Jennison said the state likely will be willing to consider a variety of ideas from private developers about what type of resort would be appropriate for the lake. In 2001, a development group had proposed a 150-room hotel with a conference center.
Jennison said that type of development is still what he has in mind, but he’ll be interested to see other proposals too.
Megan Hiebert, owner of Clinton Lake Marina, said she’ll also be interested in seeing how the process progresses.
“They will have a lot of things to look at,” Hiebert said. “They’ll have to select an environmentally appropriate site for sure.”
Jennison said there were about four locations in the state park that could be considered. Previously, developers had focused on a wooded point near the marina, but Jennison said it is recognized that site could create some ecological concerns.
Hiebert, who has met briefly with Jennison about the resort idea, said she’s ready to hear more about what the state has in mind.
“I definitely like the idea of additional tourism at the lake,” Hiebert said. “I think it could create a really positive economic impact for the whole area.”
Jennison said he anticipates having a public meeting to discuss the resort idea early next year, if the process remains on track.