Brothers Tommy and Michael Martinez bring their boat ashore in Lake Park. (Samantha Douty/Community Impact Journal)
Lewisville Lake is an ongoing economic engine for the city and a North Texas tourist attraction for millions of people each year.
Nearly six million people are expected to visit the lake in any given year, bringing $60 million in revenue to the Lewisville area and local businesses, said James Kunke, the city’s director of community relations and tourism. .
The lake is also driving economic development projects and residential areas, which continue to pop up near and on its shores, officials say.
“[Lewisville Lake is] a differentiator in North Texas,” Lewisville Mayor TJ Gilmore said. “It offers an enormous amount of outdoor activities that you simply couldn’t do if you didn’t have a beachfront.”
The mayor said some people jokingly call the lake area “The Hamptons of Dallas,” a reference to the affluent beach towns that dot the southeast shores of Long Island, New York.
“Lewisville is a wonderful place to get away from it all,” Gilmore said. “I believe that’s true. You have a lot of great equipment here, and you don’t have to travel far. It’s a pretty amazing place.”
The City of Dallas uses the lake as a water source. It is also used for flood control and water conservation, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the lake.
“Even though it’s Dallas water, it’s got our name on it,” Gilmore said. “It’s a wonderful way to differentiate the city and provide a sense of place.”
History of the lake
The city of Dallas originally built the lake, which was formerly called Lake Dallas, in the 1920s, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The lake was created by the completion of the Lewisville Dam in 1955 and later renamed Lewisville Lake, according to the Army Corps.
The lake was opened for recreational purposes in 1956, Kunke said.
In 1958, marinas were added and boat builders began to appear, quickly becoming one of the city’s biggest employers, Kunke said.
“A new Lewisville economy has begun to form because of the lake,” Kunke said. “It drew people from all over North Texas.”
This economy has affected all sectors, including groceries, restaurants and retail, he said.
Marinas are also an important economic driver because they store boats on the lake, Kunke said. Two marinas are located within the city limits of Lewisville – Eagle Point Marina, which is operated by the city, and Pier 121, which is privately operated by Safe Harbor.
Three other marinas are located outside the city. All operate with leases through the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The US Army Corps of Engineers operates and maintains Lake Lewisville, senior natural resources specialist Nick Wilson said in an email.
“We ensure that the dam, facilities and other infrastructure are maintained and operated so that reservoir missions serve the people of Texas,” he said.
Leasing facilities by the US Army Corps of Engineers is considered a real estate transaction, Wilson said. Funds generated from leasing activities are deposited with the US Treasury.
Tourism and leisure
As people visit Lewisville, many stay in hotels, which generates hotel occupancy tax funds for the city and state, Kunke said.
The city’s Lake Park and Tower Bay Park serve as key entry points. Both parks are operated by the city.
In 2021, Lake Park and Tower Bay Park saw an estimated 59,256 cars pass through toll booths, Parks and Recreation Director Stacie Anaya said. To enter either park, people must purchase a day pass for $10 or an annual pass for $25 to $65, depending on age and residency status. Residents of Lewisville can purchase an annual pass for $40 while non-residents must pay $65.
In 2021, revenue from the two park entrances was $380,681. In 2020, the parks saw $421,324. That revenue goes into the general fund for the city of Lewisville, Anaya said.
The parks, Anaya said, are great for people who don’t have boat ramps but still want access to the lake. The parks also offer a number of other amenities, such as camping.
Lewisville sees between 11,000 and 14,000 RV stays per year, Anaya said. In 2020, the parks recorded 11,988 camp stays and 13,679 in 2021.
“During the pandemic, what we’ve seen is a lot more people going out mid-week,” she said. “This summer [in 2020]every weekend was like a vacation weekend.
Campground and park entrances fluctuate, however, depending on flooding, Anaya said. One of Lewisville Lake’s main purposes is to manage flooding in years with higher rainfall, which means Lake Park tends to be underwater.
Many businesses, such as Sneaky Pete’s, take advantage of the lake’s offerings. Sneaky Pete’s is a restaurant located on the shores of Lake Lewisville.
“We have people from all over the United States who are drawn to the lake,” said restaurant operations manager Lindsey Mehmeti. “Summer is our busiest season with warmer weather and the pull of the lake. It’s kicked off by Memorial Day weekend. Families, boaters [and] the bands all come out during the summer.
During the offseason, Sneaky Pete’s relies on its banquet halls and private event bookings, Mehmeti said.
Developments also continue to be built along and around the lake due to the natural amenities it provides. ••On the east side of I-35E is a project called The Lake District, which is in negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers for Phase 1, which includes the master plan for that area, Marichelle Samples said, director of economic development for Lewisville.
This process will take 18 to 24 months and will require approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
On the west side of I-35E, Northern Gateway development is underway after being approved by City Council in 2021, said Christina Williams, Lewisville’s economic development officer.
This mixed-use project includes the construction of more than 1,000 residential units, she said.
“It’s definitely a very exciting project,” Williams said.
Economic development is a big part of the lake, Samples said. It is important that tourism, recreation and development work hand in hand.
“Economic development is closely linked to everything that happens in this area,” she said.