Public meeting over proposed changes at Lake McConaughy

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 10:10 PM CST
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Changes like capacity numbers and advanced registration for camp sites are being proposed by Nebraska Game and Parks for Lake Ogallala and Lake McConaughy.

A public open house was held Thursday night at The Lake McConaughy Visitor and Water Interpretive Center to give the public a chance to get more information and voice any concerns.

More than 100 were in attendance Thursday and rotated around the visitors center to ask questions and see what the proposed changes are.

"McConaughy has enjoyed a lot of growth over the last several years, but with that growth also comes some challenges in terms of limited resources," said Doug Zingula, commissioner with Nebraska Game and Parks, "So we're trying to find a balance and we’re here to discuss it with the public."

Executive Director for Keith County Area Development, Mary Wilson, said she just learned of the proposed changes January 3rd. "Things have escalated rather quickly and so here we are hoping to inform the public as to what's going on and hopefully we can collaborate in a positive manner."

Wilson said they as an area development are wanting more time before a decision is made.

"We are asking that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to table this item to allow us to collaborate with them to come up with a solution that addresses the safety, which is the number one concern for Lake McConaughey, but also takes a look at that economic development impact and how we can make some changes to the proposed plan so it does not impact the community."

Chris Vail, The Executive Director of Keep Keith County Beautiful said, "One of the things we face these days is initial hysteria because of what is put on social media. I believe that game and parks will listen to us because, as a community, we need this lake, we do not want to become a dead community, tourism is vibrant in Western Nebraska and everybody who comes here wants to come back."

Vail said there are so many people who care for the lake and want to see it succeed. "If you’ve been to Lake McConaughy, you feel like it’s yours, you feel like it you’re a part of it, so so many people have an affinity towards this. There’s some changes that have to be made both for infrastructure and product design, but I think game and parks will listen to the consumers and listen to the people that live in this community."

Chase County Resident, Ryan Greene, said he has been bringing his kids to the lake for years and doesn't want the proposed changes.

"I hope the game and parks hears what the people are saying and that they leave Lake Mac how it is," said Greene ,"I know there’s a petition that’s running around on Facebook, I know there’s about 10,000 signatures on that, I also encourage people to call at their local Senators. Southwest Nebraska, especially the west end of Nebraska, doesn’t have a lot of recreational things and gosh this little bit of sand little bit of water is really a lot for our kids a lot for our people."

The parks department will take the information they have and make a vote on it next Wednesday in Lincoln.

"McConaughey is kind of the crown-jewel of Nebraska, particularly in Western Nebraska and we want as many people to come here and enjoy the resource and their time here whether it be fishing boating or just on the beach, at the same time, we also feel we have a duty and obligation for their safety and the well being in the management of the resources," said Zingula. "We’re here to listen and to strive to maximize those opportunities."

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