Parks and rec aquatics director shares dream of retention basin recreational area

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Correction: The original print version of this article mistakenly called the north effluent retention basin the northeast river basin in the headline and body of the text.

The north effluent retention basin area just off 2385 Van Meter Road currently lies vacant.

Looking for ways to improve the community on hot summer days and more, some officials in Winchester have raised interest in its development.

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Meeting with Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed and others on Tuesday, Aug. 22, Kevin Ryan – the aquatics director for Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation – discussed the possibility of converting the area into a recreational place for waterfront activities, leisure, and more.

“I’ve been doing open water swimming and triathlon for years. I found this [body of water], and [the idea] kind of spiraled from there,” said Ryan. “Driving out here [and] seeing the potential of it that’s what inspired it.”

For over one hour over lunch, Ryan and Reed talked about the possibilities of the idea, including the basin’s dimensions.

Measuring approximately 650 meters west to east and 150 meters north to south, the body of water also has a walking path of roughly 1.2 miles with a water line at 1600 meters.

“Apparently, over the last several years, water levels have been going up to the point where it’s kind of created its own spillway,” Ryan added. “It’s kind of at the maximum. [The] surface area of this body of water is 43 acres. So, [it’s] quite big.”

Conceptually, the idea has been proposed to incorporate a pair of 2x50m lap pools, a paddle and additional swimming area and a sailing regatta race course onto the water.

Yet, that’s not all.

“I think we can put a ton of beach volleyball courts out there inflatable play structures,” Ryan added. “We can be renting paddle boats [or] renting kayaks.”

Using the area near water as a beach has also been discussed.

While inquiring about potential obstacles, Mayor Reed offered support.

“I strongly believe that this is the kind of thing we need to find ways to do instead of reasons not to do,” Reed said.

Following lunch, Ryan and Reed would head to the location of the retention basin, where others, such as Winchester City Manager Mike Flynn, Magistrate Mark Miller, and Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Lewis, waited to learn more.

Also attending was Duke Dryden, the utility advisor from Winchester Municipal Utilities (WMU).

Previously, it was explained that WMU is currently in charge of the property.

While at one point, any rainfall and sewage that one of the WMU treatment facilities couldn’t hold would get diverted to the northeast river basin, such has not been the case for nearly 15 years.

“I want to say it’s been 13 or 14 years since it has been used for that, and every pipe in and out has been concreted in,” Ryan said. “Nature’s kind of cleaning it up on its own.”

Through studies, solid rock – rather than other substances – was confirmed to be at the bottom of the water.

Microbiological analyses also confirmed the presence of E. Coli to be low, in some cases non-existent.

“We’re talking very, very clean,” Ryan confirmed.

Still, he continues to look to prioritize cleanliness.

“I do think we need to aerate it,” Ryan added. “If you aerate it you can get this thing shockingly clean, but it’s already fairly clean right now.”

While plans and action will continue to be considered, and it may be a few years before work is complete, the future appears bright with consideration.

“I think we all see that this could be a beach,” said Lewis.