Docks moored to misuse: Privately owned, publicly used
Byron Lange and his family added a swimming ladder last summer to their dock at Marion County Park and Lake.
It lasted about a year before someone damaged it. Lange thinks someone backed into it with a boat.
Dock owners regularly exchange stories about people damaging or leaving trash — dirty diapers, bait, beer bottles and cans, fish parts, you-name-it.
Docks inside Lakeshore Dr. are privately owned but open to the public. Those in coves outside Lakeshore Dr. are privately owned and off-limits to the public.
“I will tell you that we are very unique in the system that we have out here,” lake superintendent Isaac Hett said. “We’re the only lake in the state of Kansas that has a system like the one we do.
“It’s good for the public because it gives them a lot of access, but on the flip side, I also understand the concerns by the dock owners as well.”
Elected officials have discussed dock owners’ concerns, county commission chairman David Mueller said, but haven’t yet made a decision how to handle problems.
Most dock owners the Record spoke with said public access wasn’t a problem most of the time.
“I absolutely don’t have any problem with someone using my dock as long as they leave it how they found it,” Lange said. “Have some respect. Dock owners compare stories. Everybody has got a story.”
The county is not allowing new docks at the lake, Hett said.
The lake features 80 privately owned and four county-owned docks. The county is liable for accidents at any dock — whether privately or publicly owned, Hett said.
County-owned docks are at the swimming area and at each of two boat ramps in addition to a heated dock near the lake office.
The last private docks that have sold have gone for $15,000 to $20,000, longtime real estate agent and lake resident Lori Heerey said.
“It used to be you could buy one for $3,500,” she said.
Heerey has owned a dock for a couple years. Sometimes it can be awkward when others are on the dock, but “thankfully, we have not had problems.”
Lange has owned a dock for about four years. He wishes the county would clear trees and bushes from the shoreline so people would have more access to the lake.
Until damage to the swim ladder, most problems at his dock have involved people leaving trash.
“Fishermen dump stink bait,” he said. “That’s an easy fix. Bring a bucket of water.”
Asked whether he’d considered putting up a sign reminding people to be respectful, Lange said: “If you put up a sign, somebody will vandalize it.”
He thinks public users don’t appreciate how much it costs to have and maintain a dock.
“I wouldn’t sell it for less than $10,000,” he said of his dock. “I think that’s the low- to mid-range around the lake.”
Patty Putter has had a dock for about 20 years.
“I think it’s fine they’re open to the public,” she said.
But she, too, has had a few problems. Someone took a fire pit from a picnic area nearby and dragged it to her dock.
“It still had embers burning in it,” she said.
The fire pit belongs to Russ and Marci Cain. They’ve owned their dock for about three years.
“We have always fished, and we love water,” Marci Cain said. “I grew up at the Marion Reservoir with my dad fishing all the time.”
The people who moved the Cains’ fire pit in the middle of the night were fishing for catfish and thought to be from Wichita, she said.
Hett confirmed that, saying that he told the men they were no longer allowed on privately-owned docks.
Cain said she and her husband “have invested quite a bit of our money into this dock. We don’t care if people use it. We just want people to take care of it, and that doesn’t seem to happen anymore.”
Russ Cain has talked to a commissioner about the couple’s concerns.
“And we let Isaac know if there are issues,” Marci Cain said.
She said she and her husband would be willing to pay an annual fee to keep their dock private.
Mueller said commissioners have had “some preliminary discussions, but we’ve not gotten any further than that. Isaac has expressed his concerns, and members of the public have expressed their concerns. We haven’t come to a conclusion on it.”
Public input will be necessary before making any changes, he said.
“It’s probably not something we can handle this season,” he said.
Last modified Aug. 9, 2023