Purpose of the project:
Lake Wichita is the third oldest reservoir in Texas, completed in 1901. Historically Lake Wichita was known as the “Gem of North Texas”, and served as a recreation destination social mecca, a driving economic force, as a haven for the wise-use and conservation of fish and wildlife resources, and as a foundation for community growth by serving as a drinking water source. Having surpassed its expected 100-year lifespan, Lake Wichita is no longer able to provide significant social, economic, ecological, or recreational benefits to the community. Having recently gone through a historic drought, we were able to see first-hand the fisheries habitat impairments that plague Lake Wichita. Siltation, degraded shoreline areas, loss of connectivity, excessive nutrients, lack of structural habitat, and lack of water coming from the watershed combine to cause Lake Wichita to cease to meet any of its intended purposes.
The Lake Wichita project is a holistic project that addresses all of these habitat issues and intends to galvanize community support for the restoration effort, improve the quality of life of the citizens of Wichita Falls, and provide major economic impacts to the local and regional community. Details of the project can be found at www.lakewichita.org but the majority of this nearly $55-million project includes the removal of approximately 7-million cubic yards of sediment. Over 200 acres of wetlands and aquatic vegetation plantings are planned, invasive salt cedar and mesquite control on private property (in conjunction with willing land owners) on the 134 mile2 watershed, addition of structural habitat in the littoral zone, amenities that include boat ramps, fishing jetties, wildlife viewing areas, walking trails, ADA paddling trails, camping areas, and a boardwalk that includes reconstruction of a historically
significant pavilion. These amenities are intended to create an environment for retail development along the shoreline and provide for a “destination” for the community and an opportunity to see first-hand what a healthy and vibrant aquatic system can mean to the quality of life.
The Lake Wichita project will serve as a model of the type of projects with community support that the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership envisions as the Partnership matures. The “vision” for Lake Wichita has been already been presented at several RFHP- and NFHP-sponsored symposia at scientific meetings and showcased as the type of restoration effort that collaborative partnerships can create.
A project of this magnitude requires the support of the community and to achieve this a massive outreach effort is ongoing. The project has conducted 69 public presentations to a total 2,230 people, participated in 20 public events with their trade show booth reaching more than 20,000 people, and has an active following on Facebook by more than 2,200 people. Additional outreach efforts include a website, www.lakewichita.org that has garnered 1,000s of visits since being launched in May 2015, a Facebook page www.facebook.com/ourlakeourlife with more than 1,500 followers, a promotional video that has been viewed more than 100,000 times since being unveiled in May 2015, a kiosk in Sikes Senter Mall displaying informational materials, donated ad space in the local newspaper, Public Service Announcements being run on local television and radio, the project being a pillar of an ongoing newspaper series entitled “Imagine Wichita Falls,” more than 250 yards signs and banners posted throughout the local community, the yard sign artwork being utilized on multiple digital billboards throughout the community, promotional t-shirts and pint glasses, coasters, table tents, and posters being utilized by local business to promote the project, rack cards with pertinent project information are being distributed, and a steady stream of television, radio, and newspaper stories continue to be developed and distributed. All of these public outreach efforts have included recognition of our principle partners, including the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership and the Friends of Reservoirs. To evaluate the effectiveness of the outreach efforts, the Lake Wichita Committee conducted a public opinion survey. In that survey, 96% of respondents said they felt that a “developed Lake Wichita would be an economic benefit to the community,” and 97% said they would “take advantage of a viable Lake Wichita.” In that same survey, respondents listed fishing as the number one activity they wanted to be able to enjoy at Lake Wichita, followed by walking/jogging, boating, picnicking, swimming, wildlife observation, camping, personal watercraft, beach activities, and cycling respectively. All of these efforts result in a more environmentally literate community with an emphasis on understanding the importance of fisheries habitats and watershed connectivity.
Project Timeline: January 2014 through December 2020
Economic Calculator Results
As per a model developed by the Genter Consulting Group, the habitat enhancement aspects of the project alone will result in creation of 816 jobs and an $81-million increase in economic activity. In another economic evaluation conducted by Midwestern State University’s Dillard College of Business Administration, completion of the “vision” outlined for revitalization of Lake Wichita is expected to annually support 11,800 jobs in the MSA, increase annual retail sales in the MSA by
$300-million, and provide an increase to annual City, County, and ISD (within the MSA) revenue of $27.5-million.
Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department-Inland Fisheries Division
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
City of Lakeside City
City of Wichita Falls
Lakeside City (Lake Wichita) Chapter of Friends of Reservoirs