Lake Meredith brings $20M economic boost to the Panhandle?

Lake Meredith

The National Park Service reports Lake Meredith visitors spent $20 million in surrounding communities in 2012.

Chief Ranger Paul Jones said this number seems unrealistic. He said the park saw more than 1.1 million visitors in 2005; that number was nearly halved by last year.

One Fritch business owner, Joan Knoll, said she hasn't seen much of that $20 million either. A few years ago, CJ's Bait Shop employed four people 12 hours a day to keep up with demands.

Present day, she works mostly by herself. She credits the lack of traffic to a drop in the lake's water level.

Chief Jones said the decline in Lake Meredith visitors is due to several factors including the 2002 ban of personal water crafts. That law was overturned in the summer of 2004, but the number of visitors has since steadily declined each year.

He said the ban and low lake levels caused most local businesses to stop selling personal water crafts.

Chief Jones said they are trying to make the park more accessible for cyclists. Park volunteers are currently building a 10-mile multi-use trail.

There's a cycling ban on undesignated national park trails, but Chief Jones hopes that will change by June 7 for National Trails Day.