LAWRENCE – An outdoor recreation center that includes a whitewater park west of Lawrence would be one of the biggest things Kansas has ever done for its tourism industry if officials decide it’s worth pursuing, the state’s wildlife and recreation chief said.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism officials are hosting leaders of the North Carolina-based U.S. National Whitewater Center this week to determine whether an estimated $50 million whitewater development at Clinton Lake State Park is feasible, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Robin Jennison, Kansas secretary of wildlife, parks and tourism, said the state needs to be more aggressive in offering nontraditional outdoor activities to cater to the changing tastes of tourists.
A Clinton Lake development would feature a man-made whitewater rafting course, zip lines, hiking trails and canoeing and kayaking, he said.
“It probably would be the second biggest thing the state has done for tourism, next to the NASCAR track,” Jennison said. “It really would be an outdoor lifestyle center.”
Discussion of a Clinton Lake project is still in its early stages, said Linda Craghead, the wildlife department’s assistant secretary. She said a site at the state park hasn’t been identified, and before any work can be done the state would have to put out a request for proposals to give all interested parties a chance to participate.
Craghead said it’s too early to estimate a timetable for the project to move forward.
State officials sought proposals last year from private developers to build a conference center and resort hotel at Clinton Lake State Park, but only one developer submitted a proposal and the state ultimately decided not to pursue the project further.
Some potential developers said a destination attraction like a whitewater park might help improve the prospects of a resort development at the lake, Jennison said.
State officials have met with Lawrence officials and area legislators about the project, Jennison said, but it’s too early to know whether city and county commissioners would be asked to provide any financial incentives or infrastructure support for the project.
“Right now, we just want to find out if people are receptive to the idea,” he said.