Edmond is working to develop a master plan for Arcadia Lake, the 1,820-surface-acre lake constructed in the 1980s that serves as a source of water and recreation for the city.
The City of Edmond struck a deal with LandPlan Consultants in late March to develop the master plan, with potential renovations and upgrades to “take the park to a new level,” Bill Begley, Edmond’s marketing and pubic relations manager wrote in an April 25 press release.
“Tourism is an important economic driver for our city, and the attraction with maybe the most far-reaching potential is Arcadia Lake,” Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis said in the release. “What it already offers makes it a special regional draw, and with input from our residents and potential visitors beyond Edmond, the lake will only grow in value and stature. This endeavor is an investment in our future.”
LandPlan Consultants’ master plan will take direction partly from a strategic overview (embedded below) created by a “dream team” task force of 15 frequent Arcadia Lake visitors, selected to offer insight into various activities and amenities offered at the park.
The Arcadia Lake task force met once in both April and May of 2021 to develop the strategic overview, which offers a number of suggestions, ranging from binocular rentals for birders to dredging the lake and improving erosion maintenance of trails used for equestrian activities.
Julie Graff, president of LandPlan Consultants, said the strategic overview document will serve as the “guiding vision” for the master plan, which could take anywhere from nine to 12 months to create.
“That’s where we’re starting from,” Graff said. “We’re taking that information and then looking at it from a feasibility perspective, a cost perspective, a maintenance perspective.”
City aims to be ‘more of a Route 66 destination’
Jennifer Seaton, director of VisitEdmond, said the formation of the task force was spurred by Arcadia Lake’s rise in usage during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Instead of it being city staff sitting around the table, you know, saying what we think, engaging this dream team was the most inspiring part of the process,” Seaton said.
Within the strategic overview, the task force ranked priorities in regards to the activities and amenities offered at the lake’s parks. Increasing the services offered and improving hiking, running, and walking facilities ranked as the highest priorities, while hunting ranked the lowest.
The task force also ranked the key values that guided the creation of the strategic overview. The top listed values were tourism and expansion of recreation.
Seaton said she believes implementation of the Arcadia Lake task force’s ideas could make Edmond an appealing stop for Route 66 tourists.
“Along Route 66, a lot of times people pass through Edmond instead of stopping,” Seaton said. “If we had things like a restaurant or a retreat lodge, or some marina slips, floating cabins, those things that came out of the dream team would really add to Edmond becoming more of a Route 66 destination.”
Justin Wishon, who represented the RV/camping group on the task force, said the meetings were very collaborative and that all voices were heard.
Wishon and Tina Lovato, who also represented the RV/camping group, camped at Arcadia Lake for over a year.
“It was awesome to be a part of the process and I think super important to get everybody’s opinion, anywhere from birdwatchers to kayakers to fishermen to camping,” Wishon said.
Some recommendations for the park were relatively simple, like adding more accessible water spigots.
“There are some (camping) sites where you have to stretch out 200 feet of hose to get to a water spigot, and then you’re sharing with two or three other people splitting off that same one,” Wishon said.
A larger recommendation was to modernize the booking process so that campers can book sites online, rather than through the Arcadia Lake front office.
“A lot of people that I’ve heard talk about it, they wonder why they can’t get online and look at what’s available or book online,” Wishon said. “[It would be helpful] just making it more user friendly for people who are used to using their phone for everything now.”
Wishon praised having people who are actively using the park create the strategic overview, rather than relying on those who may not be using the park consistently.
“It was great to be a part of and I think super important for all of us to be heard, as we are the people who were actually in there doing this stuff, rather than somebody who is just sitting in an office trying to put a budget together for something they are not actively using,” Wishon said.
‘The risk of just over-developing it’
Graff said she has heard concerns regarding potential overdevelopment on Arcadia Lake, but she said the strategic overview is based in a vision that would preserve the lake’s natural beauty.
“I think, overall, with any amenity that you put out there, it still needs to have the same lake vibe that it does currently,” Graff said. “People enjoy going there because it’s quiet and it’s relaxing, and you get to feel like you’re outdoors. And so there’s always the risk of just over-developing it and over commercializing it (…) and that’s not what this group envisioned for this lake.”
Graff also said some people would like to see a dock and a marina on Arcadia Lake, but she is unsure if those ideas are likely to happen.
“We’re going to get into that as we study what they’ve requested and what’s feasible, but sometimes people have big dreams about big developments at a lake like this, whether it’s hotels or restaurants or marinas or whatever,” Graff said. “We’re just having to balance that with what we can actually do there and what’s feasible, what’s maintainable.”
Graff said that after LandPlan Consultants completes a draft of the Arcadia Lake master plan, they will provide the city with a phased implementation plan and cost estimates for each proposed item.
“It’s kind of like a cafeteria menu. You get to select which things you would like to do,” Graff said.
The phased implementation plan will give the city options to complete changes at the lake gradually, as funding becomes available.
More than $2 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds is expected to be used as infrastructure investment at Arcadia.
“And that sort of helps, because then the public can see improvements taking shape gradually, and they see progress,” Graff said.
Additionally, Graff said the city will release public surveys for Edmond citizens around the same time the master plan draft is completed. Renderings and graphics of the affected areas will be available at that point as well.
Graff said Edmond has a good track record with implementing master plans, and she pointed the development of the trails at Arcadia Lake, which were also laid out by LandPlan Consultants.
“We did a trails master plan for the lake back in like 2014. (…) They’ve already built, I think, three or four segments of that trail,” Graff said. “So they have a good reputation for taking a master plan and actually moving it forward, which is good.”
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