Draining Long Lake unlikely but still an option

Walter E. Long Lake is a favorite location for fishing, boating and family picnics. Typically, it's not very crowded, which is something Adolph Guerrero likes.

"For me, yeah. This is my first time putting the boat in and it took me awhile,” said Guerrero. 

The lake and park around it are near the Travis County Expo Center. From SkyFOX drone you can see downtown Austin, which is about a 30-minute drive away. It’s a site with a lot of potential.

"Because it is our largest park, you could essentially fit Zilker Park and Roy G. Guerrero in there and essentially still have land mass left over," Greg Montes with Austin Parks and Recreation says.

Montes, who is leading an effort to redesign the park says in a recent survey- only half of those who took part - have been to the lake-  or said they rarely go. 

"Well it’s a beautiful park, and it’s a wonder why it’s been under developed for so long,” said Montes.

Conflicting input on what to do has resulted in several conceptual maps. Possible new activities include hiking, camping and horse back riding, which are marked in blue. Green sections identify open-nature areas. Places marked in orange could be used for sporting events, including golf. 

"I think there is enough acreage that we can maybe balance what we are hearing from the community,” said Montes.

There are organizations currently using some of the park land; like a radio controlled airfield and a skeet shooting club. Montes says there are no plans to kick those groups out.

There are two other options in play. Both involve the Decker Power Plant, and both involve what some may consider to be the unthinkable, draining the lake.

Water from the lake is used to generate electricity at the power plant. But with the site slated to be decommissioned in three years there will soon be no mandated need for the water.

Maps were drawn showing the lake reduced to the size of a pond and the old lake bottom converted into new activity space.

Rick Link, who spends a lot of time on the water, doesn't like the idea of losing the lake. Link said he’d be willing to pay a higher fee to get in, to keep the lake.

“Right now I pay $5 during the week and $10 during the weekend, so if they doubled it $10 admission, I think I would,” said Link.

The idea of pulling the plug isn't likely, according to Montes. It was done to provide council members with a different point of view.

"I don’t know if I would determine it as a worst case scenario, I think it presents a different option, for the community and it presents an option for our city and our leaders to look at and say, is it really meaningful to our community to continue to pump water here,” said Montes.

A final proposal for the lake is expected to be presented to the council by November.