Letter to the editor

To the Editor: My wife and I have been property owners on Gardner Lake for the last 20 years. We have only recently become aware of the problems involving the lake spillway and dam, and the challenges of maintaining this lovely spot and ecosystem, including at least some interest expressed in the Gardner city council of selling the lake.

I’d like to suggest that a better approach, both for the city of Gardner and the lake community, would be to forge a constructive partnership. As such, I respectfully submit some thoughts and questions: 1) If Gardner Lake were to be sold, who would be the buyer? As I understand it no entity exists that could currently execute the transaction. While the desire was expressed to offload ownership responsibility from the city to homeowners around the lake, those homeowners are not organized in a way that would permit a sale. So how would such a sale work?

2) It was mentioned I a city council meeting that since the city of Garner owns the lake, it is liable if there were to be a failure of the spillway and flooding, which could be catastrophic to homes and property downstream. Is mitigating that liability not sufficient justification for expending city funds to repair the spillway? It would be much more expensive to clean up a disaster than prevent one, let alone consideration of the inconvenience and human cost. It also would reflect poorly on the city if such a predictable/ preventable disaster were to occur.

3) If the dock fee was increased to $400 annually, this would provide roughly $75,000 to the city annually. This would cover the entire cost of the spillway repair within 6-8 years, and could remain in place in perpetuity to provide additional funds for lake maintenance. Is there a reason this fee could not be imposed?

4) While I am not a lawyer, it appears that a benefit district can be declared. This would seem to permit access to the larger number of property owners, as opposed to dock owners, so per capita fees could be even less. Is this a possibility?

5) It should be understood that public access to the lake exists: residents see significant numbers of boaters/ fishermen on the water any time the lake is not frozen (which is most of the year). Couldn’t the lake be regarded as a significant amenity to the citizens of Gardner? Couldn’t there be ways to invest in the lake such that more people could enjoy it? It seemed that the idea of a beach was quickly dismissed by the Gardner city council – could that possibility be taken up for more formal analysis?

6) Mention was made that water from the lake is used to irrigate the golf course. Wouldn’t loss of that water by sale of the lake impose a new and significant expense to the city?

7) What is the alternative to maintaining the lake? If it were to be significantly degraded, either by lowering the level or permitting it to fill with silt, the result would appear to be an enormous swamp or mud pit on the border of the city. This would breed mosquitos and degrade the quality of the air in the area. Is this an acceptable outcome?

8) While I believe a great deal of good will to work with the city exists among most lake residents, the desire for such a group to self-organize in a way that permits them to solve a maintenance challenge at the municipal level seems unrealistic. Is it not appropriate for the city to exercise the leadership and management to solve this problem? It seems that this important issue has been deferred for years, possibly decades. Shouldn’t the council take responsibility for the property the city owns, both to preserve a significant asset and prevent potential disaster?

My understanding is that the Gardner Lake association represents the great preponderance of lake residents who are anxious to work on finding mutually beneficial and constructive solutions. By all means this should include greater financial contributions from the lake community, which I think we all recognize have been trivial to date, but only as a component of decades of benign neglect.

The citizens of Gardner should recognize they own a lovely little lake on the border of town that has been underutilized, and needs maintenance. It is in the interest of the people of Garner, as well as the Gardner Lake community, to work together to invest in solutions that can preserve and even improve this unique resource, which is available for the benefit of all.

Andrew Green 15487 Lake Road 4 Gardner, KS 66030