By CLINT FOSTER
It’s no secret that Palo Pinto County, and much of Texas, is suffering through part of a long-term drought this summer. As a result, many area lakes, including Possum Kingdom Lake, are facing the residual affects of low-lake levels.
But the Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce is doing everything it can through its new tourism budget to help ensure that the lake is still sufficiently promoted and attended.
At Monday’s Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court meeting, Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gayla Chambers presented her proposed tourism budget for the 2014 fiscal year. In an effort to pinch pennies, her new budget – which was approved by commissioners – is $6,000 less than the previous one, partially because, as Chambers said, she is expecting less tax revenue from the areas’ hotels and motels than in past years.
However, even with a smaller budget, the PK Chamber is not going to back down from encouraging lake tourism. Chambers told the Index that despite the total budget decreasing, she plans to significantly increase the percentage of the budget devoted to advertising and promoting the lake across mediums of newspaper publications, television and radio.
“Given times like these, it is even more important for us to make people understand that there is still water in this lake,” she said. “There are boat ramps still open, the lodges are still here, our restaurants are open, our hiking trails are beautiful. There are activities and things for people to do.”
Although there is certainly still water in the lake, there is no question that PK Lake is dryer than folks are used to. Brazos River Authority Public Information Officer Judi Pierce said the recent drought has caused “literally the worst amount of inflows we’ve ever seen in recorded history” into PK Lake.
“At this point, the drought conditions are for a number of reasons: number one, those inflows; number two, evaporation; and number three, water use,” she said. “Quite honestly, the releases that have been made within the last year from Possum Kingdom have been extremely low. Basically the minimum.
“The BRA wants very much to keep the lake as full as possible, but without any inflow, that’s simply not possible. Of course, we have to continue providing water to the contracts that we have. We certainly couldn’t cut them off just because the lake levels have dropped. We have to continue to provide water to those people that have a need for it.”
There is a growing concern among some Palo Pinto County residents that the BRA is selling all of the water in PK Lake without any qualms about it. But the BRA has an obligation to provide water to a number of contracted clients, including drilling sites in West Texas, major electric companies and municipalities within the entire Brazos River basin.
Pierce had this to say to try to assuage concerns:
“The thing that you have to note is that Possum Kingdom Lake is a water-supply reservoir and that was the purpose for which it was built,” she said. “That water will be necessary for the future of the state and the continuance of any type of commerce that the state will have in the future.
Without water, there is no ability to continue on with commerce and industry that require it, as well as residential areas that require it.”
Regardless, the PK chamber under Chambers direction has made it their top priority to increase awareness that the lake is still open for tourism and business, even if it means they have to cut their budget elsewhere.
“We have to cover salaries, utilities, maintenance on the building and all those types of things, which we can manage that, but we most importantly want people to know that we are spending that hotel/motel tax money in advertising and promotion of the lake,” Chambers said. “If people just get this idea in their heads that because the lake is low they can’t come here, it is up to us to continue to use that money to promote tourism year-round. There is plenty of water in this lake. It’s just not as convenient as it use to be.”