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More opportunities for anglers and conservation enthusiasts may be coming to Richmond’s South Lake.
City and Park Board officials met with Department of Conservation officials yesterday to talk about striking an agreement with the city to make upgrades and improvements to the lake to enhance what Northwest Regional Fisheries Supervisor Harold Kerns calls educational and fishing experiences.
“It’s a real asset for the community and we want to provide what we can to help,” Kerns said yesterday at the meeting. “It’s obviously well used. There are great opportunities that are already there.”
No one was in disagreement that the lake is already used quite a bit and enhancing its attributes will only be good for the community.
“I don’t care when I go to out at the ballpark, there is always someone at the lake,” commented Park Board President Joyce Bowles.
Kerns and Fishery Biologist Eric Dennis said the lake is an ideal location for the department’s Community Assistance Program, designed to help cities make upgrades to lakes when they cannot afford to make upgrades themselves.
“The cities don’t have the money or the expertise to do it, so we step in,” Kerns said.
Kerns said the program is a 75/25 percent match, with the conservation department picking up the 75 percent. He said most of the funding is federal dollars that come from taxes on hunting and fishing equipment with the rest supplemented by the conservation department. Kerns said the program tries to structure it in a way where the city can use its own resources to count for their match, such as doing in-house work.
“We know how folks are strapped for money. If we can avoid people writing a check,” Kerns said, that makes everybody happy, and it still gets the facilities on the ground.”
The department originally tried getting the plan to go through in 1997, but ran into a stumbling block when it was discovered the lake had some private ownership. Now the lake is completely owned by the Richmond School District and has a 99-year lease with the city.
In order for the program to work the city must enter into a 25-year agreement with the department. Once an agreement is made, the department takes over the stocking and maintaining of the overall health of the lake. The city would still maintain the mowing and upkeep. Kern said the city would not have to do anything different than what they already are.
“I can’t imagine you would have to change anything,” Kern said. “That’s why it’s ideal.”
Kerns said not to expect the plan to go through quickly. He said usually the process takes a couple of years and was hopeful some work could begin July 2010, but said it’s more likely to happen in 2011.
Kerns said his department is currently working on an agreement with the city of Wood Heights and already has agreements for Lawson City Lake and the cities of Hamilton and Cameron.
City Administrator Rick Childers said city council members will want to know what would happen if material costs escalate over the next two and half years. Kerns said the department would more than likely make up the cost.
“We’re not going to come back and say you’ve got to spend a bunch more money,” Kerns said. “Nobody wants a surprise.”
Possibilities discussed for upgrades include clearing brush on both sides of the lake for easier access and a trail around the lake. Also discussed was adding a floating dock or using artificial banks to extend further into the lake.
Photo: Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Regional Supervisor Harold Kerns, left, Ray County Conservation Agent Tammy Pierson, center, and Fishery Biologist Eric Dennis catch bass and bluegill from South Lake last July. The conservation workers spent the day measuring and counting fish in the lake. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)