The City Council will decide the fate of White Rock Lake by March 1995, the deadline for items to be put on the City bond election scheduled for May.
Council members will hold public forums from now until the middle of December to gauge the voters opinions concerning the bond election.
“No one can say with any certainty what will be on the next bond program, but the City Council is aware of what the need is (at White Rock Lake),” says First Assistant City Manager Cliff Keheley. “No one has discounted it.”
Such reassurance has not squelched neighborhood concern about the lake. Tim Forgerson, who chairs the lake restoration committee for the Lakewood Homeowner’s Association, has been receiving calls from neighbors who are nervous that the Council will not allocate bond money to the lake.
“Save the Rock (an organization lobbying for City funds) is in a panic that this issue isn’t going to get on the ballot,” Forgerson says.
The panic is unfounded, says Councilman Glenn Box, whose district includes the lake.
“I predict with almost 100 percent certainty that it will be on the bond election,” Box says. “The question is how much money will be allocated.”
Citizens have been calling Box, he says, because they heard that the Parks and Recreation Department isn’t going to include the lake restoration in its request for bond money.
The Parks Department will suggest to the Council that since White Rock is such a large effort, the Council should consider it as a separate project and allocate funds for the lake independent of the money that would be allocated for other park programs – such as swimming pools and new playgrounds, according to Parks Department officials. Otherwise, any money given to the Parks Department would get eaten up by White Rock Lake, Box says.
“The park board supports White Rock Lake,” Box says. “But, since it [the lake] is such a big ticket item, they want it to be a separate proposition. The issue is how to get the lake on the ballot.”
Approximately eight to nine projects will be funded with the $150 million available through the bond program, Keheley says.
So the lake is in tight competition with other projects to get on the ballot. The Council is considering funding for the Arboretum, the City zoo, Fair Park, street repairs, flood control, building repair and other key “nuts and bolts” issues, Box says.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we get 600 to 700 million dollars worth of recommendations,” Box says. “Until we see that programs are out there, it’s hard to make an ironclad commitment. There’s going to be a lot of competing interests.”
Compromises are going to be made, Box says, and when they are, White Rock funding could come up short.
The amount of money allocated to the lake will determine how good of a job is to be done restoring the lake, says Nancy Begel, Parks Department engineer.
The City will be charged by the cubic yard for the sediment that is removed from the lake, Begel says. More money means more depth. At present, the Parks Department has recommended that $12 million be allocated for dredging the lake.
“We would like to achieve enough removal of sediment that all the recreational activities at the lake can be enjoyed again,” Begel says.
The City Council has looked into getting additional money from the federal government, says Keheley and Box, but there has been little to no success.
The show of public concern for the lake in the next two months will help council members determine how much money to allot for lake restoration if the issue is put on the ballot.
Box will hold a meeting Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Ridgewood Recreation Center, 6818 Fisher. Another meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6 at Lake Highlands High School, 9449 Church, at 7 p.m. with Box and Council Representative Donna Halstead. Times and dates for additional meetings will be posted in public buildings, and announcements will be sent in the mail.
Save the Rock has started a letter writing campaign to convince Council members that White Rock Lake is an asset to the whole City and not just to our neighborhood.
For information about the group, call Suzette Seabury at 328-3138.