The dredging operation at the Cushing High School Lake is complete and the "mission accomplished" said one of the individuals watching as the huge dredging equipment was loaded on a truck and taken back to the company who donated it for the project. What was the mission? To restore the lake to its original depth which will improve the fish habitat and clearity, and simply to beautify the body of water near the new Cushing High School field house.
The eigh-week project came in under cost - way under cost. In fact it is the generosity of a local manufacturer that made the project possible at all. The dredging machine is one of several owned and manufactured by VMI.
Gene Maitlen, who founded the company here several years ago, was on hand to see the machine loaded. Seeing dredges loaded on trucks is common place for him. The company he now operates with his sons, has shipped their equipment all over the world. This one was being shipped just across Highway 33.
Several of these smaller machines are leased by the day or month for between $1000 to $2000 per day. The Maitlens made this one available at no cost to their community. "This was the key in getting this done," said Dale Cotham who helped pull it all together. In turn, the school provided the operator and Lionel Harris of Harris Oil provided the fuel.
"This is one of the real benefits of living in a small town," said Cotham. "People will step up to the plate to get something done." The lake is now at its original depth of 15 foot in the deepest part and an average of seven foot, overall.
The Bank of Cushing also will help see the lake is restocked with game fish. Jim Shields said the Cushing Vo-Ag class plans to make restocking a project. "None of this could have happened wit out the help of others."
Operator Kenneth Ward waved goodbye to the machine. The dredging, which made statewide news when he turned up a purse that had been missing for 30 years, had been an adventure for him. He also found old tires, hubcaps, fishing poles and lures and even a Texas license plate. "I also found some grass carp teeth," Ward said. "At least that's what people tell me they are," he said. "Pretty wierd." Some of the carp along with game fish were victims of last summer's drought.
An agreement made with the City of Cushing years ago when the city gave McLaury's Pond and surrounding property to the school calls for the school to maintain the body of water for use of the public. Ward was trained to operate the dredge by Randy Maitlen. The job took about eight weeks.