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State seeking proposal to develop resort at Clinton Lake State Park


The idea of a destination-style resort at Clinton Lake — an old proposal that resurfaced late last year — is becoming more serious.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism are seeking proposals, due next month, to develop a 175-room hotel with a conference center and various restaurant and recreational facilities somewhere inside Clinton Lake State Park.

Robin Jennison, the state’s wildlife and parks secretary, confirmed to the Journal-World last September that he was seriously studying the idea of a significant resort development for Clinton Lake, which is just west of the Lawrence city limits.

According to new state documents, Jennison is negotiating a 50-year lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the lake and owns the property around it.

The resort would be run by a private development company, but through a contract with the State of Kansas. Private money would be used to fund the construction of the resort.

HVS Consulting and Valuation Services, a national hotel industry consulting firm, has prepared a feasibility study that suggests a number of amenities that would be needed to make Clinton Lake a regional destination. They include:

• a 175-room hotel

• a conference center, including a 6,500-square-foot ballroom and about 9,000 square feet of additional meeting room space

• three restaurants, including a full-service restaurant, a lakeside bar and grill with courtyard, and a poolside bar and grill

• a spa

• an outdoor pool

• an indoor/outdoor pool

• a water sports center, which would include equipment for kayaking, sailing, wakeboards, jet skiing and water skiing

• an outdoor sports center, which would include hiking guides, bike rentals, and sports court. Guests also would be expected to have access to the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course, which is below the Clinton Lake Dam.

Of course, all of this still is in the concept stage, and there is one big detail that is still very much unknown: The specific site for the development. The request for proposals asks developers to specify where they would like the resort to be located within the state park.

The development group also would have to make the necessary arrangements with the city of Lawrence to extend water and sewer service to the site. Currently, the state park is not connected to the city’s water and sewer service.

I haven’t had a chance to talk with Secretary Jennison today, but will try to do so. When I chatted with him in September, however, it was clear he was very excited about the prospects and had taken a personal interest in trying to get the idea moving ahead.

“I can tell you that is an idea that is very important to me,” Jennison said. ““With K-10 (the South Lawrence Trafficway) on track to be completed, that really adds to the potential of Clinton. 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.”

There has been at least one other previous serious discussion of a resort at Clinton. That was back in 2001, but negotiations with the Corps of Engineers to allow a resort at the lake were difficult.

We’ll see how things progress this time. The hotel market already has been an active one in Lawrence. This project could be a game-changer for that industry.

Proposals are due into the state by July 17.


he_who_knows_all 2 years ago

I need the odds of who's going to build it...Fritzel or Compton? With the states help of course.

Currahee 2 years ago

It'll be okay because KU Endowment will pay half for it and that either Fritzel or Compton can build it in a no bid stipulation, so the state will end up saving money.

Cindy Wallace 2 years ago

Took the words right out of my mouth!!

Hooligan_016 2 years ago

Why even keep it as a public park? With this concept proposal, might as well privatize the whole place and charge an entry fee.

Why does every single place have to be over-developed?

thebigspoon 2 years ago

I don't see why an 8000 acre lake that will be silted in in the next 20 years or so needs something like that ? But I never understood why you would design campgrounds and boat docks so far apart so you have to trailer your boat every time you use it and are camping there ?

snitty 2 years ago

Huge profit for the crony investors; huge loss of a public facility to "privatization". This will turn Clinton Lake into a private club. At least its not a strip mine, or an oil well, as in Cheyenne Bottoms.

Stop_the_Madness 2 years ago

This plan is too big time for Lawrence. The investment would not see any return for years.

Mike Myers 2 years ago

This really makes me want to vomit

Joe Blackford II 2 years ago

KS must be slipping up into 49th position (per capita public lands).

Perhaps Brownback & Jennison can jettison Tuttle Creek Reservoir's state parks while the lake level is in close proximity to the boat ramps.

jack22 2 years ago

I noticed there is a plan for "an outdoor sports center, which would include hiking guides, bike rentals, and sports court. Guests also would be expected to have access to the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course, which is below the Clinton Lake Dam." I have to think, if we insist on building our new recreation center outside of the city this really would have been a better spot to put it.

hujiko 2 years ago

Please, no.

Kansas ranks last in public land ownership, with less than 1% of all land belonging to the public. We don't need to reduce that total one square inch. Leave the environs of the lake alone, pretty much the only thing going for Clinton these days is the scenery.

hujiko 2 years ago

State or Federal, either way it's public land and should remain so indefinitely.

Jstanobservation 2 years ago

So how much is this going to cost the people of Lawrence and Douglas Co?

signoflife 2 years ago

I think there are greater needs for the lake than this resort... As someone else mentioned the silting in of the lake is probably the biggest concern. Zebra mussels are another concern, although I think it is too late. If this resort is built, certainly they will clean the stands of trees out of the North finger to make for more useable lake surface. 1/2 the lake at Clinton can't be used by boaters because there are still stands of trees sticking out of the warer

Clickker 2 years ago

Really cant wait. Hearing they are looking for something ala Big Cedar. Nice to have something that nice so cl;ose

thebigspoon 2 years ago

Big Cedar is on a 43000 acre lake that isn't in danger of silting in. That is a bit of a difference... Clinton really isn't much of a lake other than for fishing. As one of the other comments stated about the only safe place to ski is in front of the dam from one end of it to the other and back again. Seems to me that Milford or Tuttle Creek would be a much better choice for something like this ?

Currahee 2 years ago

Why even bother with a study? If you want to host a conference here, that means taking the airplane over to KCI, then you're renting a car or taking a taxi from KCMO ALL THE WAY to the middle of nowhere.

Do you think it's going to work? Do you think people are going to pay to come to literally the middle of nowhere? Why settle with mosquitos (really an indoor pool near a lake?) when you can host a conference in KCMO/KCK which is more convenient?

Armstrong 2 years ago

I'm sure those same thoughts were expressed when developing Branson, not that this would be that scale but...

bevy 2 years ago

Currahee, don't know where you grew up, but I've seen The Middle of Nowhere, and Lawrence ain't it. If you must know, the M.O.N. is in New Mexico. I have been there, and I have driven across it.

adastraperapathy 2 years ago

Interesting how the administration doesn't take any of KU, Lawrence, or Douglas County's other concerns seriously. But if there's a chance to turn a profit (from this thread, it sounds like a slim chance) they're on it!

dirt 2 years ago

Good lord! You all act like they're going to throw this hotel out there, get rid of all the camping and trees and then somehow make you pay for it. I frequent the lake and am excited about an idea like this. Lawrence needs a reason for people to come here, they don't come for our downtown, trust me. If it does go in, there could be improvements to the park and the lake!

Scott Morgan 2 years ago

I've been saying this for years and years. All the while heading to Missouri for boating and fishing every year. Not alone, the number of Kansas license plates around Missouri waters is astounding.

cowboy 2 years ago

Do It ! Put in some decent horse trails while youre at it.

Richard Heckler 2 years ago

Lawrence taxpayers have been spending generous bucks on this project over the years....... very interesting. By way of the park department budget. Sesquicentennial Plaza if my memory serves me well in which a hotel,golf course and outdoor amphitheater were the objective according to what I saw in the park budget.

"The resort would be run by a private development company, but through a contract with the State of Kansas. Private money would be used to fund the construction of the resort"

Brownback is giving Douglas County land away = tax dollar moochin corporate welfare.

I say taxpayers own that land NOT Brownback. Is the land being sold to a private contractor for at least $50,000 an acre? Perhaps $100,000 an acre would more fiscally prudent considering the profit potential. Or for that matter nothing less than $20 million $$$$$$$$.

What if the project goes under? Do taxpayers bail out the contractor?

Richard Heckler 2 years ago

I believe the city park budget has been "improving" a site with over 1,000 acres so I would imagine this is where the eyes are parked. Keep your eyes and ears open.

In Lawrence when "speculators " are talking think fast track.

Not this pretend "Of course, all of this still is in the concept stage, and there is one big detail that is still very much unknown: The specific site for the development. The request for proposals asks developers to specify where they would like the resort to be located within the state park."

Water 2 years ago

In the mean time, the fish in the Kaw River are too toxic to eat. Lets just keep throttling mother nature like a rented mule. Hey! Lets build a hotel overlooking the new wetlands area....

Scott Morgan 2 years ago

water, yes like they do in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana...........states which actually make money on tourism.

Richard Heckler 2 years ago

Who funds the Corp of Engineers? The taxpayers.

Do the Crop of Engineers have real estate marketing experience? Surely no one believes that taxpayers support giving their property away.

Nor do we support the corp and city services making a profit from OUR water that came from upstream.

whitelightning 2 years ago

Sounds like a nice place for visitors, but also weddings, anniversaries, reunions, etc. The Oak Ridge Resort is in the middle of nowhere in MN and is beautiful for work conferences, training, etc. Of course it's much larger scale, but still, I think it's a great idea. Maybe add PaddleBoarding to the list of water activities.

Sometimes people WANT to be away from the middle of the city!!


hujiko 2 years ago

"Sometimes people WANT to be away from the middle of the city!!"

Yes, and part of that desire is to encounter minimal to no development, the very thing one is trying to escape in the city. By creating a specific destination out in (and I use this term generally) wilderness, you create the opposite of a getaway destination. Thoreau and Muir would be absolutely appalled by the current state of Walden and Yosemite respectively.

Ideally, in a wilderness setting, the only reference to the outside developed world should be the path one came in on.

Water 2 years ago

With such reasoning wouldn't it make more sense to create another lake next to Clinton Lake?

KSManimal 2 years ago

"Hey, look! Some nice, relatively undeveloped PUBLIC land; that's currently being used and enjoyed in its natural state. Let's pave over it for private corporate profits."


Jason Johnson 2 years ago

Clinton lake has too many boats as it is for its size on holiday weekends (since half the surface area is ruined by all the trees. Adding this would bring yet more boaters, creating a hazardous situation.

I vote "no".

joes_donuts 2 years ago

If Merrill is against it, I am all for it!

imastinker 2 years ago

I think it's a pretty neat idea. I use Clinton Lake too, but the amenities for the volume of people there are pretty poor. I dislike camping there because there is no place to put the boat, and the best camp sites (Bloomington) are on the opposite side from the marina (state Park). I dislike skiing and tubing there because the lake is always choppy. The marina doesn't have a restaurant so we have to pack a meal. So...we use Clinton for Bloomington beach and short half day trips with the boat. The state park beach stinks, and the lake is getting shallow. I've hit the mud bottom a few times and spun a prop once there. If we have time we drive further to Perry and go there.

Truthfully they ought to drain the lake and take all the sediment out before they do anything else.

Let's face it: Clinton is too small a lake to enjoy like the other big lakes in the area (Perry, Truman, Lake of the Ozarks). It would be better to make it more like Lake Shawnee and have the town surround it with more activities there. There are plenty of water activities for nature lovers around, I love canoeing on the Wakarusa and intend to get on the kaw river sometime. Perry lake is nearby too, and the Douglas county fishing lake.

Joe Berns 2 years ago

I boat there and ski/tube there regularly and see a lot of others doing so. It's definitely not too choppy, but if it is windy, there are areas you can go to mitigate the whitecaps and chop and still ski and tube and have fun. I'd vote no, the lake is small enough, putting a resort on it would make it that much smaller.

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