Visit Norman to release Lake Thunderbird masterplan in April, feedback wanted

Feb. 9—By April, Visit Norman will release a masterplan for development at Lake Thunderbird, and it will soon be reaching out to the community for feedback.

Dan Schemm, president of Visit Norman, said the organization is working with Larson Design Group, a local architectural, design and consulting group, to create the masterplan.

The organization held a meeting last week with stakeholders, including the City of Norman, Cleveland County, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, Lake Thunderbird park rangers, Thunderbird Sailing Club, Thunderbird Riding Stables, marina owners, and Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, among others.

Also involved, but not in attendance are Absentee Shawnee Nation and Bicycle League of Norman.

"This was a session to talk about what these groups would love to see happen out there," Schemm said. "What are some of the constraints we face? What are some of the opportunities? I think it was pretty productive."

The ideas included improving signage, adding a restaurant, improving mountain bike trails, making trails more environmentally-friendly, adding trails for kayak launches, among other things.

"We asked how we could enhance trail experiences for bikers, while making them more environmentally-friendly," Schemm said. "We talked about contouring them with the slope of the land so there's less erosion."

While a state park, Lake Thunderbird is also a drinking water source, so it has different government organizations that look after it.

"We're kind of unique in that we have this three layer of governmental entities with the Bureau of Reclamations, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District all kind of having some authority over it," Schemm said.

Lake Thunderbird provides the drinking water for Norman, Midwest City and Del City.

"There were some low hanging fruit ideas that came out that OTRD and BOR were like, 'Oh yeah, we can do that right away.' Then there were some bigger ideas that maybe aren't as feasible under their guidelines, or are going to take a lot more work to accomplish," Schemm said.

Lake Thunderbird State Park and Lake Murray State Park are the second and third most visited state parks in Oklahoma behind Beavers Bend in Broken Bow.

"The entire stakeholder group understands that this lake is our drinking water source. It needs to be maintained like that, and hopefully the water quality will be improved upon," Schemm said. "We are looking at this as low-impact. If there is any development, it will be eco-tourism with not much change that will enhance the experience of those visitors or users."

Rod Cleveland, District 1 Cleveland County commissioner, attended the stakeholder meeting and said the county has earmarked $1 million for improvements at Lake Thunderbird from the American Rescue Plan Act.

"We stated in our plan that Cleveland County is investing funds to address water infrastructure needs in rural areas of the county and in Lake Thunderbird, primary drinking water source for the county," Cleveland said.

He said the County is interested in developing wetlands around the lake, which improves water quality.

"We'll do whatever we need to do to mitigate wetlands so we have a filter that drains into Lake Thunderbird," he said. "We have allocated a million dollars to assist in real infrastructure that would go into this strategic masterplan that Visit Norman has applied for."

Chase Horn, spokesperson for the OTRD, said the office's park manager and regional partners attended the meeting.

"They both wanted to hear the realistic improvements that could be made to the park," Horn said.

Brian King covers education and politics for The Transcript. Reach him at