STARKE COUNTY PARK BOARD
November 15, 2016 6:00 PM Minutes
The Board of Directors of the Starke County Park Board held the regular meeting on November 15, 2016 at the Starke County Annex Meeting room. Roger Chaffins, president, called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.
Roll Call – Present: Roger Chaffins, Chris Lawrence, Deb Mix, Rosie Rose. Absent: Butch Gerstandt Pledge of Allegiance –
Minutes -A motion to accept the minutes as written from 10/11/16 (Lawrence-Rose) and a vote carried the motion.
Bass Lake Beach & Campground – Larry Clarich, asst. manager of the BLBC, reported that the Gazebo has been completed with the exception ofit being painted. He also reported that some of the fence has been straightened and painted. The water will be shut off next week. A comment was made that there’s no need to discuss the BLBC since it’s closed. Ms. Mix stated that she was uncomfortable with that since we will lose the entire winter and once the warm weather returns, we’ll have nothing to show for the winter months. It’s during the winter when we have time to see what needs to be corrected before it opens in the Spring.
5 Year Plan – Mr. Buswell of KIRPC reported that he received two responses from the 5 or 6 consultants that were requested to help write the 5 yr plan. The board was presented with Statements of Qualifications from Arion Consultants and Troyer Group. Mr. Buswell explained that there is no need to score the proposals with only two responses. He prefers to use the interview method. He explained how the scoring process works, although we aren’t required to do so. Discussion determined that the board will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the Annex meeting room at 6PM. Due to the fast-approaching deadline for the IDNR grant process, we should expect to meet quickly and often until the 5 yr plan is written.
Mr. Clarich spoke up and suggested that he make a wish list of improvements and would like to have the board make their own wish list when we meet at a physical inspection, and the lists can be compared. It was determined that the board will meet at the BLBC on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 10:30AM. Mr. Chaffms will ensure that the county building inspector, Terry Stevenson, will also be in attendance.
A letter that was sent from Kathy Lucas was read aloud as she had requested. She noted the opportunities that the BLBC offer are vast, including making a connectivity of the Erie North Judson trail to Bass Lake. She would also like the tourists and bike riders that come to the trails to have beach access.
The next meeting is a Special Meeting on Thurs., November 17, 6 PM, at the Annex meeting room.
The next regular and final board meeting of the year is Wed., December 13, 2016 at 6 PM, at the Annex meeting room.
With no further discussion, a motion was made and seconded (Lawrence-Rose), and the meeting was adjourned at 6:35 P.M.
Respectfully Submitted, Debbie Mix, Secretary
STARKE COUNTY PARK BOARD
November 15, 2016 Statement of Kathleen Lucas
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Board. My name is Kathy Lucas. My husband, Steve Lucas, and I are residents of Starke County. He grew up in North Judson and still has family here. After visiting the area numerous times, I suggested (to his surprise) that this would be a good place to live when we retired last year.
First, let me express appreciation for your service to this new institution. Both Steve and I have represented State agencies during our legal careers, and we understand the need for a public process to determine what is important to Starke County residents. We understand the task is often thankless but extremely important.
Steve and I have a log home on the North Judson-Erie Trail as well as a small cottage on Bass Lake. We are very active in the Prairie Trails Club and are working toward a smoother connection between the Trail and Bass Lake. We believe the Park Board’s involvement in both the Trail and the Bass Lake Beach could help resolve some issues and benefit the citizens of Starke County. Both the Bass Lake Beach and the Trail have the potential to bring visitors to our county who will buy gasoline, shop at our stores, and help to grow our economy. (I have recently heard real estate agents say people have moved to Starke County because of the health and recreational benefits offered by the trail.) These valuable assets must be protected and maintained. In short, we believe these amenities should be available to the public, be clean and safe, and offer a place for people to rest and have a bite to eat.
We are encouraged by the Board’s decision to select a facilitator to help develop a five-year plan for all county-managed park facilities. We hope this process will begin as soon as possible and will be conducted in a manner that allows respectful dialogue and serious commitment to resolving issues from all involved.
I want to commend this Board for progress that has already been made. These meetings of the Park Board have led to certain improvements such as the repairs to the shelter house at the south end of the park. It is now safer and more attractive, and I want to thank those who participated in fixing it up. As we all know, other improvements are still needed. Because the beach could be an important attraction to bring people to Starke County, we believe priority should be given to finding a way to resolve the remaining challenges. Steve and I look forward to participation in the Master Plan process the Park Board has set forth.
Thank you for your time and attention to these important matters. We appreciate your public service.
Martin R. Lucas• Attorney at Law
‘SJ7 Lane Slreet • P.O. Box 16 • North Judson, Indiana 46366 • 574JW6.5800 • e-mall: mar11nrlucas@gmal!.com
The Land and Water conservation Fund:
Applicability to Bass Lake Beach and Campground
Memorandum dated November 17, 2014
Prepared for the Starke Co. Parks and Recreation Board
At the direction and on behalf of the Starke County Commissioners
1. Executive Summary:
The Bass Lake Beach and Campground (the “BLB&C”) is subject to the condition that it must be used for “outdoor recreation purposes in perpetuity in accordance with Land and Water Conservation Fund Requirements.” The Land and Water Conservation Fund (the “LWCF0 ) is a federal program; in Indiana it’s administered by the Dept. of Natural Resources Div. of Outdoor Recreation. Starke Co. owns the property, and has leased it to Callahan Development. DNR Div. of Outdoor Recreation had originally advised that long-term camping was prohibited at LWCF properties, but after additional consultation with federal authorities advised that the duration of the camping alone was not an LWCF issue, but that permanent private improvements are generally contrary to LWCF requirements. Several other LWCF compliance issues were listed in a recent inspection.
- Basis for Applicability of LWCF Requirements:
The BLB&C is subject to the LWCF requirements in perpetuity by the explicit terms of the document by which the county took title to the property. For many years before that, the property was operated as a State Beach by the State of ndiana. The property was transferred to and became vested in “Starke County Commissioners” pursuant to a “Declaration of Surplus and Transfer of Property, Bass Lake State Beach by the State of lndiana0 executed by then Gov. Frank O’Bannon on September 27, 2002. This Declaration is the equivalent of a deed. (Appendix A)
Paragraph 6 of the Transfer states:
‘1″his transfer is conditioned upon the use of the real estate for outdoor recreation purposes in perpetuity In accordance with Land and Water Conservation Fund requirements”.
It’s my opinion that this provision creates an obligation that runs with the land, in perpetuity, or at least as long as “Land and Water Conservation Fund Requirements” exist. While a subsequent transfer to another entity is not expressly prohibited by the document, the property would continue to be subject to the requirement that it be devoted to “public outdoor recreation use in perpetuity” in accordance with the LWCF.
3. The Land and Water Conservation Fund:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a federal program, created by Congress in 1965, primarily to help fund acquisition of public parklands. A share of the proceeds from US offshore oil and gas leases is the main funding source.
4. overview of LWCF Requirements:
In general, the LWCF requires that all subject properties are public, non-discriminatory facilities, hosting primarily outdoor activities typically associated with public parks – hiking, camping, fishing, ball fields, outdoor theatrical venues, etc.
The LWCF prohibits conversions to “other than public outdoor recreation uses” without prior approval of the IDNR and US Dept. of the Interior. “Examples of typical conversions are: new public thoroughfares, utility lines, indoor recreation facilities (community centers, swimming pools, ice rinks, etc.}, other civic structures (fire stations, schools, libraries, fairgrounds, town halls, etc.) and the introduction of exclusive (nonpublic) uses.” (Quoted from pg. 143, 144 of IDNR’s LWCF Manual)
A variety of other requirements apply:
- all utilities must be installed underground
- signage acknowledging the LWCF must be Installed,
- the site “should be maintained for safe public use…and kept in reasonable repair…to prevent undue deterioration and to encourage public use.”
- The park should be open for general public use at reasonable hours and times of the year according to the type of area or facility
- Use must be nondiscriminatory, and nonresident use fees may be no more than double that of residents
- Generally, a plan for the facility should be on file.
s. The Callahan Lease and the LWCF:
The BLB&C is subject to the terms of a May 2008 lease wherein the Starke County Commissioners as the Landlord, and Callahan Development, LLC (“Callahan”) is the Tenant. (App. B) The initial lease term Is ten years, with an option for Callahan to renew for an additional ten years. The preface to the lease contains the following recitation describing Starke County’s possession of the property:
“which Deed demises the premises to Starke County Indiana in perpetuity as long as It Is used for outdoor recreation purposes in accordance with land and water conservation fund requirements…”
Section 4 states that the “permitted uses for the leased premises are for a public beach resort and campground”, and that other uses are prohibited. Therefore, Callahan had notice of the existence of the LWCF requirements, and it’s my opinion that in light of Section 4, Callahan’s acceptance of the property subject to the LWCF requirements ought to be inferred.
Under Sections 10 and 23 of the lease, Callahan Is responsible for maintenance of “present improvements”. Under Section 25, Callahan “at Its expense, shall maintain the condition of the premises as a first-class campground and beach facility In the State of Indiana.” While a
“first-class campground and beach facility” is not defined, viewed in context it’s not unreasonable to conclude that it would, at a minimum comply with LWCF requirements.
6. Leases of Property subject to the LWCF:
A park board may provide for operation of a site acquired or developed with LWCF assistance by leasing the facility to another party, but must “irrevocably agree to provide suitable replacement property should the public use of the leased facility be restricted or the outdoor recreation resource be compromised”. (Quote from pg. 94 of IDNR’s LWCF Manual}
The lease should require that the property be
“identified as being publicly owned and operated as apublic outdoor recreation facility in all signs, literature, and advertising and the lessee be identified as such so the public will not be misled into believing the area is private. Signs should also be posted identifying the facility as open to the public.”
“the lease term must be for a limited number of years and may not be automatically renewable, since the permanent transfer of property rights is not allowed under the LWCF program. (Quotes from pg. 94 of IDNR’s LWCF Manual).
The current lease is not fully compliant with the LWCF, but arguably at least, some of the requirements of the LWCF might be inferred from the reference to the program in the leases’ Preface. It’s suggested any future leases be drafted to explicitly include terms ensuring tenant compliance with minimal LWCF requirements.
7. The Inspection Report:
To ensure continuing compliance with LWCF requirements, periodic inspections of LWCF properties are conducted by staff IDNR’s Div. of Outdoor Recreation. In July 2014, the undersigned counsel contacted Bob Bronson at the division. Topics discussed were LWCF compliance, and the Commissioners’ concerns about the maintenance and visitor experience at the property. Also discussed was whether LWCF rules limited or prohibited long-term camping.
On September 18, 2014 IDNR Div. of Outdoor Recreation issued an updated report citing several concerns, including lack of required signage, questioned a “private boat dock as public beach”, and cited deterioration of the general condition of the property, and accessibility limitations. (App. C)
Follow-up discussions with Mr. Bronson centered on the permissibility of long-term camping, and Mr. Bronson’s initial opinion was that the two-week limit applicable at state properties would also apply at LWCF properties owned by non-state units. However, after more research, Mr. Bronson concluded that the current position at the Dept. of Interior does not impose a specific limit on the duration of camping, and therefore long-term camping is generally not a violation of LWCF requirements. However, installation of permanent fixtures or improvements
such as steps, decks, or any other structure would have the effect of privatizing an area and ·
thus be in conflict with the LWCF.
Note however, that the fact that the LWCF does not prohibit long-term camping does not in any way affect health, zoning, or genera! campground rules and regulations which must also be observed.
8. Issues Needing Additional Study:
Unfortunately, I have not yet found a definitive document mapping out LWCF compliance. This is probably partly due to the myriad types of issues that come up, and probably also to what may be somewhat flexible enforcement. Most enforcement cases I found involved proposed construction that would have violated the LWCF; probably in some of these cases the projects couldn’t get funded without clearing LWCF compliance. Deterioration of facilities does not seem to appear frequently in reported decisions.
Therefore, som of the particular issues at BLB&C will need additional study, both to get the facts and then apply the rules. These include:
- What kinds of structures associated with long-term camping are prohibited?
- Is the boat dock private? Is leasing of boat slips an LWCF violation? Or Is it improper as an encroachment on the public beach?
- Who is responsible for correcting the accessibility issues?
- What can be done to address: “Service area detracts view in campground”?
I hope you will find this memorandum useful. On behalf of the Commissioners and myself, thank you for your service to the community.
Very truly yours,
Martin R. Lucas
Copy: client, file.
Give us back our beach.
November 10, 2016
Submitted to Kathy Norem and the Starke County Park Board by: Kathy Carrier 4815 East County Road 210 and
6339 South State Road 10 Knox (Bass Lake), IN
Greetings! My name is Kathy Carrier and I am a property owner of two homes at Bass Lake. For the past three years I have been studying the history and future of the Bass Lake Beach and Campground. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking about the history and the past of our beach and what has happened to bring us to the dilapidated property that we now see. At this juncture, though, I believe it is more useful to think about the future of this important Starke County asset.
As you’ve observed, there is a growing group of interested property owners who have joined together to politely demand from the Park Board and County Commissioners that we be given back our beach. Those of us that pay property taxes should have a say and certainly have a stake in this issue.
Imagine a beach like Silver Beach in St. Joe, Michigan. Unlike our beach, Silver Beach has a beautiful parking lot, pristine sand, food vendors, a splash pad for kids, water fountains, clean shower facilities, historical signage, artwork, pavilions, and just about anything you’d ever want in a beach park. I think we should shoot for that.
This dream isn’t all that crazy. For the past year, we have been pressuring you to not renew the lease with Callahan, LLC for another ten years. I believe we are best served to have both the beach and campground become a vibrant part of the Starke County park system. I’m talking about a park for the residents of our county, where we pull our boats in and have a bite to eat and a root beer, where our kids and grandkids build sandcastles and play in the splash pad, and where our teenagers play basketball.
This dream is beginning to take shape. We applaud your decision to hire a consultant to write a five-year plan for the Starke County Parks, including our Beach and Campground. I’ve encouraged the BassLake Property Owners to be at table as that plan is created so that we have a say in what our new Beach and Campground will look like. It seems to me that this step is slow to happen; it has been in discussion for months. Get the consultant hired and get the plan written. What is the deadline you’ve given yourselves to complete the process and have the plan written?
There are many ways to fund this dream and there are examples of how to do this right under our noses. The Beach and Campground are money makers. By my estimation, Callahan, LLC has taken over
$1 million out of the park in campground fees, boat docking fees and gate admission over the 8 ½ years he’s had the lease. It is apparent that Callahan has not reinvested much of that in our beach. We can raise money from wealthy people, similar to what Purdue has done with well over $1 million in donations for the former Bass Lake Hatchery. We can find local donors who will donate farm land or other assets similar to what the Starke County Historical Society has done to fund the renovation of their new building. We can issue bonds, similar to what we did to pay for our sewer system. We can work with our elected officials who serve us in Indianapolis to allocate state money for this capital improvement. The point is, there are many options to fund this dream.
Last week I met with Sarah Origer at the Northeast Indiana Community Foundation and I am setting up a Donor Advised Fund that can be used to assist with financing this dream. This strategy will not bring in the big bucks required for the complete renovation but it demonstrates to you, to the County Council and Commissioners that we are part of the solution. This fund will be called The Bass Lake Fund; eventually we’ll solicit donations into the fund to be invested in the beach and other projects. Stay tuned for more on this topic.
So, why not? Why not make our Beach and Campground something that we all use, enjoy and are proud of? Why not make our beach project part of the renaissance of our community and our lake? Why not improve the value of all of our properties by having a spectacular beach and campground? It is our most significant community-owned asset.
So, in summary, I say to the County Commissioners, the County Council and to you, our Park Board,
“Give Us Back Our Beach.”