Under a hide-and-seek sky of sun and swift-moving clouds, Jennifer Sanders and her family enjoyed the cool weather Thursday as well as changes to Stephens Lake Park.
Sanders came to the lake often as a child, and now that it has reopened, she brought her children, nieces and nephews.
“I have been promising them they could swim,” she said. “We figured the lake would be warmer than the pool.”
The swimming beach area opened Monday as part of a $2.5 million renovation of the park, which the city bought in 2001 for $8.1 million. The lake was drained in October 2002.
In addition to the beach area, a paved lake trail and an island accessible by a boardwalk have been completed. One of three covered shelters on the island has benches facing the swimming area, which is roped off by blue and red buoys.
The beach is free to the public; no lifeguard is present. The park on Old 63 and Broadway is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Swimming is allowed during daylight hours.
Sanders recalled her time at the lake fondly, saying she remembers racing to the park as a child. “I would try to get here as soon as it opened,” she said.
Sanders said it was a tradition for seniors to paint their year of graduation on the roof of the boathouse, and she recalled loud music coming from it. She said it used to be a big deal to race a rowboat behind the island before a lifeguard noticed.
Now, Sanders said, the lake looks updated. “There’s a natural look to it,” she said. “But it’s usable.”
Thursday was Sunee Brown’s first time to the park. “I’ve already walked around (the lake) twice,” she said.
Brown said the park would be nice for people waiting for patients at Boone County Hospital across the street. “It’ll give them something to do,” she said.
Ericka Johnson had her pole poised over the water on Thursday. She said Stephens Lake is her favorite place to fish. “It’s the only place I’ve ever caught anything,” she said.
Bonnie Knight brought her grandchildren to fish as well. Knight said she walks regularly at the park and is excited to see it when the work is done.
“It’s great in the wintertime, too, because the kids can sled,” she said.
Two shelters, three playgrounds and new restrooms should be completed this fall, said Mike Hood, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Work is scheduled to begin on an additional shelter as well.