Lake Community Design: Access is Critical

Sunset on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.Water sports are very popular at Grand Lake, Oklahoma.
Water sports are very popular at Grand Lake, Oklahoma.

Upon returning from a week-long vacation at Laketime Retreat on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma, I thought about how to best design a retreat complex on a lake setting. I came to the conclusion that the experiences of a lake visit vary greatly by the personalities of the guests that visit. Some guests visit for reunions, they do not necessarily experience the feel of the lake but enjoy the pure beauty of the relaxing setting. Others travel with boat-in-tow for the absolute adventure that the water has to offer with boats, tubes, jet-skis, etc. Some visit for swimming and more passive recreation opportunities. The one common thread in the visit for all is the accessibility to the water.

Sometimes, as landscape architects, planners and architects, we like to believe that visitors are excited to see the beautiful architecture or landscape of a place. In some instances, this is of course true. But when a visitor comes to the lake, access to the water is the critical element. As designers, we need to easily facilitate this and not get in the way of what the consumer desires-that is access to the water.

A few years back, when I was working for HDR Planning, I had the privilege to come up with a plan for an Independent Living/Assisted Living Village in Munising, Michigan. In the design of this Village, it would have been very easy to give into the conventional wisdom that we should locate as many residences with private lake access for greater value to those few residents. We opted to stay away from conventional wisdom by providing access to all of the residents through the use of common space where congregation could occur. I believe that the Net Value produced was for the greater benefit of the existing residents and the future community to be constructed.

The primary intent of Memorial Village was to distribute access to many residents with common space rather than just a few. Sketch by John Olson in conjunction with HDR.

Laketime Retreat accomplishes access with both a shared boat dock for the guests and an adjacent semi-public boat dock at an adjacent park that can also be utilized.

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