Saving a Somerville Attraction

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Memorial Day weekend means a busy weekend at Lake Somerville.

"It's just a beautiful facility," said visitor Eric Waguespack. "It's well managed. The water's frequently patrolled, especially during the busy holidays."

And the Army Corps of Engineers is largely responsible for maintaining the lake, including the popular Overlook Park. But this fiscal year saw a $4.1 million dip in the Fort Worth District's funding. Under new proposals to save money, the corps would close down 10 parks in the district, including Overlook.

"The options on the table are if we can find some additional funding, then that would be great," said lake manager Martin Gustafson. "But barring any additional funding, then we would have to make the decision to possibly close the park, and at that time, we either close the park or find somebody, such as the marina, that would take over the operation."

"The boat ramp is the largest boat ramp on the lake," said Lake Somerville Marina owner Solon Carver. "You close down Overlook Park and you close down that boat ramp, and there really won't be any reason to come down to this end of the lake."

The marina is directly across the water from Overlook. Carver forsees his investment sinking if the park is not saved, and just as he leases the marina for the corps of engineers, Carver says he'd lease his neighboring land.

But Overlook Park is not just a single boat ramp. It is 65 campsites, including 25 that are electric-based. It is three restrooms. It is one group pavilion. It is land and water care. And it is all a job whoever leases or owns this property will have to do. The marina says, if called upon, they're up to the task.

"It'd be more of a burden mowing-wise and that type of thing," said Carver, "but at the same time, the more diversification you can offer to the customer, the better off you are."

Past marina owners have not taken care of the property, some to the point that the facility has been shut down.

"Fortunately, the new marina operator's been in place for over a year, and people have seen what he's done," said Gustafson. "He's turned around the marina tremendously. The bottom line is what people want is the park to be kept open, one way or the other. That's the number one thing."

And if need be, one businessman won't let Overlook be washed away.