Letter to the Editor

East Okoboji Beach "improvements"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I live in the East Okoboji Beach subdivision. We have been undergoing a "retro-fit" road construction project, designed to incorporate LID (low impact development) practices into the plan to protect the water and stop runoff into East Lake Okoboji. Prior to the project, the area had gravel roads which, when it rained, created a great deal of runoff into the lake. Something had to be done.

As a neighborhood, we were told by both the Dickinson County Board of Supervisor Mardi Allen, and our East Okoboji Beach Board, that this project would have the eyes of the state on it. It would be the first of it's kind in the form of retro-fitting an existing roadway with updated rain gardens and swells, making it more environmentally friendly, while at the same time, paving the road. We were promised that as many as possible of the magnificent Oaks that graced our roads, would be saved. There would be SWPPP (pollution prevention plans) in place during the construction to protect the waterways. It all sounded too good to be true.

In the subsequent meetings, we were told we would lose some trees, but would not miss them. Meetings held for the neighborhood about the project were held in the winter months, when most of the residents were gone, as many of the homes in the area are for summer occupancy only. I personally attended all of the meetings as I had many concerns.

One of my concerns was the trees. Nearly 250 trees were lost in our small area, 200 of which were very old, healthy Oak trees that were so big, it took several people to put their arms around. Everyday I miss their beauty, and in the summer, I missed their shade. The shade of one Oak tree can create a 30 percent reduction in energy use during the heat of the summer. I know of only one tree that was spared.

My other concern was the speed limit in the area It has always been 15 mph, and even at that, people fly through here at high rates of speed, some on their way to the DNR boat ramp at the water's edge. There have always been home made signs in the area, reminding drivers to "slow down." This area is filled with curves and hills, many roads winding around to join up with another unexpectedly....and lots of children and people walking through the neighborhood. We have many lovely families from the Arthur Heights and East Oaks Estates Subdivisions who walk our roads with their strollers, dogs, and young ones on small bikes on their way to the beautiful Elinor Bedell State Park, to enjoy the fabulous trails and Shelby Duis Memorial playground. The sounds of children and their pets are everywhere in the summer, not to mention the number of seniors walking their pooches along the roadsides.

When I inquired at the meetings about the speed limits, I was told that perhaps they would be 25 mph, as they are now considered "county roads," but it would be taken into consideration. Jacobson-Westergaurd reps who designed the road stated, (and it's in the minutes of the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors/East Okoboji Beach meeting) that they designed the project at 15 mph. Many residents of East Okoboji Beach, both year and seasonal, feel the speed limit should remain at 15 mph on the unique roadways here, especially given the tendency to "speed" anyway.

As we have been concerned, I have tried to keep up with the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors website, so that my neighbors and I can be aware of any pending decisions. I noticed on their agenda items for the 12-01-09 meeting, item #1 was to "approve 15 mph speed limits for East Okoboji Beach."

I felt they had listened to our requests, and attendance would not be necessary. However, listening to KUOO news, I have learned that speed limits are instead, 25 mph!

Had I known one thing would be posted on their website, (15 mph) and yet another passed (25 mph), I would have gone door to door in my neighborhood to get as many as possible to the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors meeting. I also notice this is once again being determined in the winter months when most of the seasonal residents have gone.

I fear for the future of our little area. It was once filled with children and golf carts on the busy weekends of summer. I am certain generations have enjoyed growing up on golf carts in the area. When my dear neighbor was dying of cancer, her thoughtful husband purchased a golf cart for her, so she could still enjoy getting out in the neighborhood with a cool breeze blowing on her through the openness of the cart. Golf carts are now illegal on our roads.

I feel the charm and beauty of this little area has been taken away and replaced with a speedway. It was a beautiful little neighborhood, as are so many in this gorgeous area we call the Iowa Great Lakes. Please do not let this happen to your neighborhood. There is too much history, and very precious resources here to let it all be taken away, cut down, or changed.

While I completely agree with all of the measures taken to protect the lake and it's special waters, I wonder why we have to sacrifice so much, even to the point of higher speed limits. We were told how beautiful this area would be with the new road & rain gardens....why not slow down and enjoy it? After all...it's Boji.


Tammy Hamlin

East Okoboji Beach, Spirit Lake