City Utilities has chosen the nonprofit Watershed Committee of the Ozarks to operate Fellows Lake Marina beginning March 1, after a new marina is built over the winter.
CU General Manager Gary Gibson informed the board of the agreement Thursday.
Since 1984, CU has had a long-running partnership with Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and provides $200,000 annually to the organization to help ensure clean water for Springfield.
Bob Wilson, CU manager of water operations, said the lease agreement also gives the Watershed group oversight of nearby Miller Park and surrounding park areas.
He said the Watershed group was selected in part because it will be able to help share the message of the need to keep Springfield water resources clean.
“The Watershed Committee has a long history of engaging in projects that help preserve water quality, and that aligned better with some of the things we’ve asked of the marina operation,” Wilson said.
The Watershed Committee plans to form a limited liability corporation to handle the lease arrangement. Wilson said that LLC will pay a lease fee of $1 a year because it is a nonprofit and will take on additional educational and conservation messaging.
The current lease holder pays $1,500 per year to operate the marina, Wilson said.
Watershed executive director Mike Kromrey said he looked forward to taking on the marina and educating lake users about invasive zebra mussels and hydrilla plants, fish species, and the need to protect the area’s water.
Fellows Lake is a major source of drinking water for Springfield.
“We will strive to continue the customer service out there that people have come to expect,” Kromrey added. “We also want to further our mission of not only connecting people with the lake but connecting them with information and actions we have to do to keep our water clean.”
Kromrey said marina users can expect to see similar services and hours that are offered now. The marina will be open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset, from March 1 to Oct. 31.
“I love the lake and I love fishing,” Kromrey said. “It’s my home water. I look forward to running the marina.”
The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks will pay CU a lease fee, and a share of the cost of boat permits. Along with boat rentals, Kromrey said he is considering adding bicycle rentals to take advantage of the new 6.65-mile mountain bike trail being built near the marina on CU property.
The trail is slated to open in December and joins a 2.5-mile Ozark Greenways hiking trail through the forest that’s been in place for years.
Wilson said he doesn’t expect to see major changes in the way the marina is operated. It will still rent boats and kayaks from the floating marina and sell boating permits required for boaters to use the lake.
However, the marina won’t have a floating shop like the current one does. Instead, the marina store and office, with fishing gear, equipment and live bait, will temporarily be housed in the large metal building where lake maintenance is handled.
The current lease on the marina, which has been held by Pam and Paul Price since 2012, will expire on Dec. 15. The marina has floated in the same spot on the 820-acre lake for close to 60 years.
Pam Price said she had hoped to renew the lease but spoke highly of Kromrey.
“I’ve known Mike since he was a graduate student (at Missouri State University),” Price said. “I am confident Mike and the Watershed will do an excellent job. He’s a fisherman and knows fishing and he’s all about conservation.”
Along with its new role at Fellows Lake Marina, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks operates the educational Watershed Center at Valley Watermill in Springfield.