The making of Koteewi Lake has been a 14-year project.
The permitting process for the lake at 12302 Strawtown Ave. began in 2006, and construction started in 2007. But when the Great Recession began in 2008, progress on the lake slowed dramatically.
“It was completed last year in 2019, and we have been working with the (Indiana) Dept. of Natural Resources in regards to regulations, so now we have finalized a temporary plan for our regulations and fishing and opened up the lake to the public,” Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Chris Stice said.
The lake offers traditional water recreation activities such as canoeing and kayaking. Watercraft rental is not available. Stand-up paddle boards are permitted.
Motors larger than trolling motors are not permitted on boats
Although swimming is not allowed, there are plenty of activities outside of water recreation. The 19-acre lake is part of an additional 200 acres added to Koteewi Park, which lends itself to other hobbies, such as birdwatching.
“The birdwatching and wildlife (are) all part of this experience,” said Stice, a Westfield resident.
The lake also has a new network of 1 1/2 miles of trails and a natural prairie.
“It is one of our goals to connect our community to nature and creating spaces for lifelong memories to take place and have those opportunities for our community,” Stice said. “Koteewi Lake is one of those unique places that adults, grandparents and children can experience recreation together and learn a lifelong skill, as in fishing, canoeing or kayaking.”
The lake includes a boat dock and canoe and kayak launch.
“The canoe and kayak launch is accessible for people to get into the canoes and kayaks, and it has sort of a grooved-like crown that allows them to use their paddle and then pull themselves toward the waterway,” Stice said. “It’s easy to get out right onto the floating platform or get in. It provides a stable and safe canoe or kayak entry and exit. That is always a fear for beginners is, that instability and rockiness, and so this is a great way for beginners to get out onto a calm recreational water experience that does not have motorboats.”
A new shelter near the lake includes interpretation signs and trail markers. Admission to the entire property is free. Although users must bring their own canoes and kayaks for use on the lake, Stice said the parks department is evaluating rental opportunities as a future offering.
“Our No. 1 goal was just to get (the lake) open to the public,” he said.
Stice said the DNR will patrol the lake and check for fishing licenses. The parks department strongly urges catch-and-release practices.
For more, visit myhamiltoncountyparks.com.
Pandemic causes increase in outdoor activities
Not surprisingly, interest in outdoor activities has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Just based on Google mobility reports, Hamilton County has had an increase of 192 percent usage in our parks,” Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Chris Stice said. “We have seen that impact, and we are seeing it on the White River. One of the unique things is, from an economic outdoor recreation perspective, I know I have tried to go buy a paddle board, and they’re all sold out. They’re not to be found. The entry-level and middle-level products are sold out. Half of the boats that are sold right now are for new users. They have never had a watercraft, so these users right now are new to this experience, and the neat thing is, we are opening up this 19-acre lake now.”