Zach Poteete rushes down one of the slides at Wet N Wild water park at the Oktibbeha County Lake in this 2013 file photo. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
May 23, 2014 10:20:41 AM
A local water park manager says Starkville Wet 'N Wild is ready to handle Memorial Day Weekend's unofficial start of beach season at Oktibbeha County Lake, but the area's future was in doubt two years ago when Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks padlocked its lakeside facilities when the agency declined to renew the property's recreational lease.
After almost a year of public debate over the lake's future -- if residents would have access to the body of water constructed with public funds -- Oktibbeha County supervisors agreed to lease the dormant, 16th section property to a group of investors led by former Mississippi State University basketball coach Rick Stansbury after the group promised to provide fishing access to residents.
The owners cleared a portion of the shore next to the Amy Tuck Multipurpose Building; created white, sandy beaches; marked off a swimming area with buoys and constructed water slides in anticipation of 2013's opening.
Hobie Hobart, a managing partner at the water park, said the business averaged more than 100 visitors a day during peak operating weekends last year. Crowds are expected to grow from word-of-mouth experiences, he said, this year.
Managers last year said local families supported the venture because many would rather drive a few miles out of town and spend an afternoon at the lake than drive about five hours to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The park maintained weekend-only hours this year, but Hobart said it will open for seven days a week beginning Saturday.
"We've had a good crowd so far. It's really good seeing the lake in use. If you haven't been out to Oktibbeha County Lake in a while, you won't recognize it," he said. "A breeze always seems to blow, and we have 200 yards of beautiful white sands, palm and banana trees. It's a very tropical, relaxing vibe."
Beginning Saturday, the park will open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1-6 p.m. on Sunday. Individual admission fees are $10, but Hobart said summer-long passes for individuals and families are available for $75 and $200, respectively.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
1. Different paths, same mission: Columbus police officers still joining up despite hazards COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Columbus native juggles love of music, medicine with UMMC band COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Police forces face challenges filling rosters COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Investigators say extension cord caused Cappe's fire STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY