On Windy Hill: Let’s celebrate 50 years of Pomona Lake hospitality

Last week, a few folks sat down at Breck’s Green Acres, near Pomona Dam, for a cinnamon roll and coffee, and to discuss a milestone of a local landmark that has had notable impact on Osage County and its inhabitants for more than 50 years.

The topic of discussion was how to celebrate Pomona Lake’s 50th anniversary. The lake was dedicated in September 1964.

The gathering of local government employees, business people and interested citizens agreed the lake’s 50th birthday is something to celebrate. But also agreed was that funds are scarce for promoting and hosting a grand celebration, excepting possible grass-roots fundraising efforts. Federal, state and county governments are more strapped for cash now than any time in the lake’s 50 years, it seems.

The group also agreed there were simple and affordable gestures that Osage County businesses, residents, and employees at the lake’s facilities can do to promote our reasons for celebrating. Businesses can offer specials; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can promote it along with a water safety message; state and county employees and citizens can remind visitors, friends and family of all Pomona Lake has to offer, even at 50 years old.

To me, the conversation boiled down to a simple, easily sustainable idea that could boost the economy and quality of life in Osage County for years to come: Pure hospitality.

Hospitality – friendly, welcoming, and generous treatment offered to guests or strangers. This definition describes a business practice or administrative policy that costs nothing to implement, and a way of living that only requires following the Golden Rule.

When I think about places I’ve visited across the United States, those I remember most are where the people offered genuine hospitality. I might have grumbled about tourist prices, such as “They charged me $15 for a six-pack, but those sure were some friendly folks at that package store.” (Package store is what some states call a liquor store; can be replaced with any other local service type business for this example.)

I think simple, friendly gestures pay off by helping folks remember the places they’ve been and would want to return to.

“Welcome to Osage County. Thank you for helping us celebrate Pomona Lake’s 50th birthday,” says anyone who lives or works in Osage County to any stranger, friend, relative or customer they meet. That’s pretty easy to do, and if backed up by sincere friendliness, can undoubtedly make lasting impressions.

One thing about hospitality, if it isn’t sincere, it won’t have the same impact. And there are some people that don’t feel too hospitable when it comes to the two federal lakes in Osage County. It’s understandable how several generations of families can still resent the bully government for deciding one day back in 1957 or so that a lake should cover their family farms. Also understandable are county commissioners grousing about the federal government’s annual payment “in lieu of taxes” that doesn’t make up for lost property taxes on acres and acres of once productive cropland.

Despite these inhospitalities, Osage County has good reasons for sincere gratitude and celebration of Pomona Lake’s impact on our lives. The Corps outlines Pomona Lake’s benefits in a straightforward manner – social, economic and environmental.

The social and environmental rewards are simply improved quality of life for lake visitors and people who live nearby. The Corps tells us recreation helps strengthen family ties and friendships; provides opportunities for children to develop skills, social values and self-esteem. Recreation at Corps lakes helps combat significant health problems, such as lack of physical activity. And outdoor recreation increases curiosity about understanding and sensitivity to the environment, helping us all.

The effect on the local economy, though, is the benefit that is felt most by everyone who lives and works in Osage County. I’ll let you read all of the government’s 2010 statistics on Pomona Lake’s economic benefits if you want to, but I’ll share a few numbers.

Probably the most important number reflects the reason the lake was built: $210 million in flood damage has been prevented (through 2012) due to Pomona Dam. But local spending impact is impressive, too. In 2010 at Pomona Lake, 567,693 visits resulted in $15,939,415 in visitor spending and $8,980,614 in sales within 30 miles of the lake. The lake also accounted for 154 jobs and an estimated $3,648,028 in labor income within 30 miles of the lake.

Keep in mind that Melvern Lake has similar numbers and both lakes combined record more than one million visits each year. (Note: The federal government has its method of measuring visits and one visit does not necessarily equal one visitor.)  Nearby volunteer-driven Flint Hills Nature Trail that cuts across the county is developing its own economic benefits.

Lakes, trails, hunting, fishing, boating – the numbers show recreational pursuits’ impact on the local economy is a resource that Osage County should not overlook. While researching about Pomona Lake, I saw that Osage County is known as the “Water Sports Capital of Kansas”. I’m unsure of how this title was bestowed, but I think we ought to claim it until properly and successfully disputed. There’s no dispute that Osage County offers some of the best recreational opportunities in Kansas .

No matter how we promote it, though, Pomona Lake is worth promoting. One of our ideas when starting Osage County News was to provide an easy and economical way for local businesses to deliver their messages to the lake population that swells Osage County every tourist season. Modern networking capabilities that were just being thought about when Pomona Lake was born now allow us to welcome those visitors before they even leave their homes for a weeklong campout at the lake. And once they’re here, we can make them feel at home by keeping them informed.

At last week’s meeting, local media and the Corps agreed to start the wave of Osage County hospitality by presenting regular public service messages about the lake’s 50 years of operation.

As part of Osage County News’ effort to commemorate all that Pomona Lake has to offer after 50 years, we have established a special information section – Pomona Lake’s 50th Year: Still a sparkling jewel in the ‘Water Sports Capital of Kansas’. We plan to add information to this special section during Pomona Lake’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and keep track of any planned 50th anniversary events. We invite you to take a look at it to see what you think.

In the meantime, we here at Osage County News have something we’d like to say to all of our readers: “Welcome to Osage County. Thank you for helping us celebrate Pomona Lake’s 50th birthday.”


On Windy Hill, Wayne White sometimes writes about things he thinks about. He not only lives on a windy hill, he’s been known to be a windy writer.

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