Upgrades proposed for Lake Lawtonka and Lake Ellsworth are designed to lure outsiders to the recreation areas, while expanding what current users already enjoy.
Halff Associates has spent months collecting feedback and crafting ideas for concession areas on Lawton’s lakes. Those recommendations make Lawtonka the priority because it is the heaviest used water recreation area with the greatest mix of amenities. The analysis defines Ellsworth as the city’s more passive lake, where activities are centered around wildlife (the lake is popular for fishing and hunting).
That’s why the vision plan remains the same: Lawton should phase in upgrades at its lakes. Halff Project Manager James Hazzard said that work should begin in the Granite Cove area, better known as the Day use Area. Upgrades there — which range from more picnic and RV/tent sites, to boating areas and marinas, to cabins and playgrounds — could spread across the eastern shore of Lawtonka, ultimately including what Halff has designated as School House Resort.
Specific plans for Granite Cove is more beach access and more amenities such as a marina, cabins, a boardwalk/walking trails and a nature area. Robinson’s Landing, on the lake’s north end, would see similar upgrades, but, work would include dredging the cove to make it deeper so it is less susceptible to falling lake elevations.
School House Slough (Resort) has the greatest potential for development, with a number of amenities added to the boathouse and boat slips/storage that already exist. Hazzard said the idea is to better serve the residents who already play and live there, as well as visitors from outside the area.
Halff also is suggesting development of what it calls the South Shore, an area near the Lawtonka dam and Medicine Park. Hazzard said the area west of the dam is scenic, with a great view of Mount Scott, and is quickly linked to mountain bike trails that already exist.
Vegetation around the lake “lends itself to being developable,” Hazzard said, noting vast swaths of shoreline don’t have trees or wind breaks to protect users.
“We address that,” he said.
Vehicular access also is a problem to address. Lawtonka has too much access, Hazzard said, explaining the number of roads make it difficult for city staff to collect fees and ensure users are where they need to be. And, access without signs or designated entrances and exits make it difficult for visitors to find their way around (a much bigger problem at Ellsworth, he said).
Ellsworth upgrades include the three well-used concession areas, while making better use of the barely developed Collier’s Landing area, Hazzard said. As with Lawtonka, Ellsworth amenities would include the addition of RV and tent camping sites, boat docks, trails, marinas and fishing piers, and other recreation sites.
Proposals for Fisherman’s Cove include addressing a request for an RC airfield.
“We believe this is a good fit for this area,” Hazzard said.
Upgrades at Ralph’s Resort will be more aggressive because Halff’s proposals include moving the marina and other amenities to the east side of the railroad trestle. The concession now spreads on the east and west sides of the trestle, but the majority — including the marina and boat dock — are on the west side. That means any boat wanting to dock must pass under the trestle.
“Larger vessels have to go elsewhere,” Hazzard said, of the height limits on that access point.