Letter to the Editor

Open letter to Okoboji City Council

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I would first like to clarify that this letter does not apply to the newly elected members of the City Council.

I have been coming to the Lakes are for as long as I can remember and I now own three pieces of property in Okoboji and Arnolds Park. That said, it is an embarrassment and travesty that the city council and mayor have already been successful in closing Okoboji Boat Works, but it appears now that they will not rest until every local business in this area owned by Butch Parks is shuttered.

The Lakes area is a beautiful place that has always made the state of Iowa unique. We have seen some changes over the years, but if this city council does not soon check its actions, more negative changes are inevitable. If they continue to tie the hands of the few remaining citizens who are working to preserve the integrity of what makes this town so special -- the people that are working so hard to cater to the likes of the customers -- these customers will go elsewhere. Along with them will go the money that keeps this town economically viable. One needn't look very hard to see the impact terrible decisions like this have already made.

Their current agenda is to close down the Fish Shack, a popular gathering place for tourists and locals alike, based on the complaints of a few residents. It appears for now that they have succeeded. The Fish Shack is on the water, which is state, not local property. The City has no jurisdiction here, but instead found a very creative loophole: To walk to the Fish Shack, one must cross a parking lot within the city's jurisdiction, and patrons still need to go inside the OBW building to use the restrooms. For this reason, they have found the rationale they need to shut down a very nice establishment that is causing no problems whatsoever. I have never heard of anything so outrageous in my entire life. I am embarrassed for the city council members who voted for this. I wonder if any consideration at all has been given to all of the people you are putting out of a job.

Most surprisingly, The Fish Shack is a quiet little bar that caters to boaters, fisherman, families who want to enjoy the beach and let their children enjoy the playground equipment, and TOURISTS. The Fish Shack is closed every night by 11 p.m. What detriment is this small business causing the community of Okoboji? I wonder how the few people that have complained about the Fish Shack for reasons as ludicrous as the scent of cooking chicken and the sounds of local live music would feel like if it was once again a Marina. Perhaps the incessant clamor of boat engines and the smell of gasoline would make them happier. It is worth mentioning that Okoboji Boat Works stood long before the complaining citizens bought their condos here, next to commercially zoned property, I might add.

Fish Shack owner, Butch Parks believes in this town as much or more than anyone. All he has ever tried to do is create an enjoyable environment for all, while at the same time providing people with jobs. As council members you know the impact that both of these things have on a community. Parks has tried to cooperate further by closing the Fish Shack at 11 p.m. since the day it opened, he didn't have to. He has the right under state law to remain open until 2 a.m. He closes early to appease the same people who relentlessly attack him and his businesses year after year, and would love nothing better than to shut it down.

This is a resort community. I am not sure what the city would like Mr. Parks to do with this property. Perhaps more condominiums? Countless condos currently on the market here sit empty. People bring their families to the Lakes area to take in the ambiance of a resort area. We have already lost so many of the little cabins that used to line the lakes and make this area so unique. That is why I have always found it so refreshing to see what Parks' continued efforts to keep this as a resort-friendly area. He is trying to maintain the integrity of Okoboji and what it has meant for tourism in this state for decades.

As a taxpayer, I am appalled at the amount of tax dollars being spent on attorneys for something so trivial. I do not want quotes justifying or substantiating the dollars being spent. One cent is too much!

Parks seems to be the only one in this scenario who cares, and is willing to continue to fight for what Okoboji is and has been for years -- a resort area. I would have thought that this Council would have received some sort of message after this last election. The term "enough is enough" does not begin to convey the feelings of myself and many other locals. But given those results from the last election, I think most of us can agree on one thing: It is time to LET IT GO.

Kimberly Quirin