As a child, I remember visiting the Lake of the Ozarks every now and then, enjoying the slower pace of life for a weekend getaway. Things seemed a bit more peaceful at the lake compared to the busy city life I became accustomed to.
I recall trips to Miner Mike’s and Buster’s as a child. In middle school, I would vacation with a friend and his family at the lake a couple weekends during the summer, jumping from the family boat into the cool water. I remember a certain fascination with Bagnell Dam, an impressive structure to my 13-year-old eyes, and the Strip — ten-cent Skee Ball is a thing?
How different this place was to the cookie cutter subdivisions, endless shopping complexes and major roads of St. Louis.
Prior to my permanent relocation to the lake in summer 2011, quiet charm added to the allure of the lake area.
Years of development on the east side of the lake have brought innumerable changes, some diluting the charm that made the area so distinctly different from other parts of the state — or for that matter, the Midwest.
I’m certainly not anti-change. Rarely do I rebuff the vehicle of progress that enhances the lives of the people around me.
But, as almost everyone knows, with change comes sacrifice.
As Osage Beach and Lake Ozark endeavor to expand and develop, the novel charm and gentility of the lake lifestyle might become one of those difficult sacrifices.
Last week, the Lake Sun reported that according to contractors at the Dierberg’s center on Osage Beach Parkway, Dick’s Sporting Good and Bed Bath & Beyond should join the complex within the next year and a half.
The area has seen the success of major retailers in the recent past. Prewitt’s Point and Eagle’s Landing have boosted business in Osage Beach and Lake Ozark. Sales tax revenue surpassed the $1.4 million mark in Lake Ozark for the first time since the recession, in part due to the opening of Kohl’s and Menard’s within the city limits.
Undeniably, that’s great news.
Transportation in the area has greatly improved with the opening of Highway 54 expressway and Route 242 through Lake Ozark and Osage Beach. The days of traffic jams as far as the eye can see have ended as cars can now zip through the area, getting to vacation homes, restaurants and attractions much faster.
With more diversity in business comes greater employment opportunities and healthy economic competition — indicators of a vibrant communities.
But I would be remiss to fail to mention the costs of these advancements.
Page 2 of 2 - Driving up and down Osage Beach Parkway east of the Grand Glaize Bridge looks much akin to driving around Chesterfield, Mo. or Overland Park, Kan. Without the picturesque lake backdrop, Osage Beach has become steadily more suburban with the passage of time.
I’m afraid that some parts of the lake has lost it’s original identity. Back in the 1930s and 40s, visitors and locals didn’t identify the lake as a shopping mecca.
A pristine morning watching the fog roll off the water while birds chirp in the background — that’s all those people needed. I think they’d feel woebegone that a huge store furnishing just about everything practically overlooks the lake.
Maybe that’s OK for some residents. After all, we don’t live in the 1930s and 40s anymore.
But as I think back about what made the lake a special place to visit, it wasn’t the large, glittering stores. Nor a thousand chain restaurants found in every other city. Nor wide, beautiful new highways.
The feeling of home made the lake a special place. The feeling of peace punctuated a lazy morning.
And no monolithic department store can ever replicate that feeling.