Tucked next to the sleepy suburb of Parkville, 274 acres of water provide an anchor for a thriving community that, in 1962, officially became The City of Weatherby Lake.
Today, Ben and Mara Cohara call it home.
“Life has a vacation quality to it because we never have to go anywhere. Once spring hits, it’s hard to leave,” says Mara. She stands in her living room, looking out a huge and sunny window that runs nearly the length of the entire back wall of the house. It frames the Coharas’ backyard, which is, mostly, a lake.
“We always wanted to live somewhere the kids would want to come back to,” she says, recalling the frenzied weeks nine years ago when the home — a 2,000-square-foot structure built in 1960 — first came on the market. At the time, the couple lived in Lenexa and had dreamed of lake living for years.
“We grew up in this area and even came to lake parties in high school. Then Ben’s parents got a house here, and we started coming out more. After college, we realized, ‘Oh wait! It’d be really cool to live here!’ ” She laughs as their two children tumble into the large open living room that melts into the dining area and kitchen. “It was just a progression of why did we ever not want to be here?”
They managed to get the first showing all those years ago, a crucial move when snagging a house in this highly coveted community. Soon after, the vacation-like atmosphere that is lake living became a permanent way of life for the Coharas. They replaced the English gardens of the previous homeowners with a multilevel outdoor patio, and recently finished a remodel that knocked down walls to play up the lake view and gutted the basement to make space for more guests.
“Here, no one cares what the front of the house looks like. Neighbors come by on boats behind the house, and depending on how you wave to them, you can have an impromptu party at a moment’s notice,” Cohara says.
“You’re buying a lifestyle as much as you’re buying a house,” says Shannon Stumpenhaus, real estate agent and owner of Tradition Home Group. “Once people find themselves a house on a lake like this, they don’t like to leave.”
They will, however, move to a different location on the lake, like her clients Justin and Jennifer Woods. Recently they moved across the water at Lake Quivira and redesigned the living space of a home there that better fit their family’s needs. The new, open layout makes plenty of room for family and friends while keeping the original bones of the house.
On one wall of a living area with soaring ceilings hangs an illuminated map of Lake Quivira, a fitting artifact to display the family’s love for the place where they live.
“This place, especially at the height of summer, looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s a well-kept secret,” Justin Woods says of the community, which includes a stable for horses, a golf club, a private swimming beach, and some of the cleanest water in Missouri. He says it’s common for three or four generations of residents to live on the same street, a testament to the power of the communities that seem to grow stronger around bodies of water.
“I do believe that the water itself is a driving force in the connections people have at Lake Quivira,” Woods says. “This desire to center our lives around nature and water is largely what has driven Lake Quivira’s existence and continues to be daily conversation with the passionate residents of this community. The reverence of these resources is incredibly important to everyone, and protection of the quality and beauty of the lake is something we all take very seriously.”
The beauty of water also attracted Kristy Simms and her husband to Lake Lotawana from their one-bedroom apartment in Lee’s Summit, despite concerns of friends and family who thought it would be costly to live there.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” she says of their home, which is on the second tier of the lake, meaning they have a shared dock but not direct access to the lake front. “Plus, I have a lake in my backyard.”
She and her husband, Nathan, have spent the past year remodeling their home, a property that allows Kristy, who works from home, to take her kayak on the water during her lunch breaks. She and her husband, too, have recognized the strength of the community that surrounds the lake, thanks to the neighbors who love it as much as they do.
“I’m so surprised by how friendly people are. It amazes me that people with every kind of political and religious views living out here all get along. It’s because we all love the lake,” she says.
That shared love makes it easy to keep bustling social calendars, with community groups and clubs that appeal to all ages. When weather permits, parades and celebrations mark the passage of time and holidays.
“When your backyard is water and you’re in that relaxed mode,” Ben Cohara says, “it helps create more of a community with a focus on fun, and fun with your kids.”
And with that kind of focus, one might wonder why we all aren’t living there.
On the lake
There are a number of area communities that provide access to lake living, says Shannon Stumpenhaus with Tradition Home Group.
“When it comes to lake living, there is a potpourri of different values and levels of newness. There are different price ranges, from tiny, two-bedrooms to others that have been added on to five times and price at well over a million dollars,” she says.
The level of activities allowed on the water varies; some of these are no-wake lakes. Here are some area lake communities:
▪ Lakewood, Lee’s Summit: 365 acres of water, 2,200 residents
▪ Lake Lotawana: 600 acres of water, 1,939 residents
▪ Lake Quivira: 224 acres of water, 933 residents
▪ Weatherby Lake: 274 acres of water, 2,000 residents
▪ Raintree Lake, Lee’s Summit: 240 acres of water, 1,847 residents
▪ Lake Winnebago: 400 acres of water, 1,143 residents
▪ Lake Waukomis: 134 acres of water, 894 residents
▪ Village of Loch Lloyd: 110 acres of water, 651 residents
▪ Cedar Creek: 65 acres of water, more than 1,000 families