One of my favorite places to shoot photos is Marion County Park and Lake. It’s a quick drive to a place that complements gorgeous sunsets, and an assortment of eagles, geese, ducks, turtles, flowers, trees, grasslands, and more captivate the nature lover in me.
However, it’s not as easy to get some shots as it was when I first was bitten by the shutterbug. Growth along some stretches of shoreline have effectively screened off some favorite shots, unless I wade into the brush and trees and perch precariously on a bank as I lean out for a clear shot.
This week’s planned cleanup will surely open up some of those shots again, but it will also destroy others. Trade-offs are inevitable.
Such is the case with the transformation of housing around the lake from modest bungalows to showcase homes.
The county, and by extension, its citizens, own everything inside Lakeshore Dr., and in places just a tad more. Built in the 1930s Depression as a conservation project, much has remained unchanged about the big puddle in the prairie.
Outside Lakeshore Dr., housing development has zipped along at a pace that’s created the fourth-largest concentration of real estate value in the county and attracted people from outside our borders to become residents.
As times and people change, so, too, do ideas about what the lake should look like, what amenities it should offer, and what its future should be.
There’s little disagreement that some spots could use some sprucing up, although I disagree with those who’ve disparaged the upkeep of the lake the past decade. An old saying that you can’t see the forest for the trees seems to apply. A sort of tunnel vision isolates specific concerns from the bigger picture.
Unlike some, I want the shoreline to look a little scruffy in places. I don’t want to see all the logs where birds perch and turtles sunbathe disappear. The lake exists in a prairie habitat, not suburban Kansas City, and I’d hate to think it would ever take on a plastic, unnatural, finely manicured air.
On the flip side, the lake and surrounding area offer great possibilities to bring people and dollars into the county. Rental cabins, an idea once proposed and dismissed, would be a draw. So, too, would be a resort-style hotel development tailored not just for weekend getaways but designed to capture a slice of the corporate retreat pie.
It’s good to see people getting engaged with the cleanup effort, but recent wranglings suggest it’s high time to develop long-term strategies for development that take into account competing needs and future possibilities.
Lake homeowners have special investments in the lake’s future, but the rest of us do as well. Not all of us own houses there, but we own the lake itself. We all should be invested in what it is and what it will become, and there’s no time like the present to take a serious look at what that should be.