Bass Lake Beach Operator Plans Lease Renewal Amid Ongoing Discussions with County Park Board

Bass Lake CampgroundThe Starke County Park Board received an update Tuesday on various issues surrounding the Bass Lake Beach and Campground. The facilities are owned by Starke County and leased to operator Richard Callahan.

For several years now, concerns have been raised that the property is not being maintained to the standards set forth in the lease agreement. However, Callahan’s attorney Todd Wallsmith says Callahan is fulfilling his responsibilities. “There’s a misconception under the lease, and I’ve reviewed this,” Wallsmith said. “He does not have to maintain or control the campground. I went through it. All he has to do is remain a 51-percent shareholder of Callahan Development, LLC. The lease is with Callahan Development.” However, Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas felt the provision was still somewhat open to interpretation.

Meanwhile, Wallsmith also complained about the park board’s requests to have representatives from the Bass Lake Beach and Campground present at each park board meeting. Wallsmith said that being at every meeting costs Callahan a considerable amount of time and money and asked the board not to require him to attend meetings during the winter months. Board member Debbie Mix expressed concerns about being able to plan for next year’s beach season in advance. However, members appeared to agree to allow Bass Lake Beach and Campground to respond to concerns by letter, instead.

Also Tuesday, Callahan sought board members’ feedback about Mara and Larry Clarich’s efforts to help maintain and improve the beach and campground. “We’ve had an experiment this year to see if everything would work and if they enjoyed it, if I enjoyed it, and if they did a good job, and I just wanted to make sure that the board feels that they’ve done an adequate job,” Callahan said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job, myself.”

While board members appeared to be happy with Mara and Larry Clarich’s work, concerns were also expressed about potential liability issues. It was noted that they are neither employees nor independent contractors, leading board members to ask Wallsmith what exactly they are. “That’s complex, and at this point, the best way to put it is, at this point, they’re volunteers,” Wallsmith said. He added that they’re currently not receiving any kind of compensation.

On top of all these issues, Wallsmith also informed the park board that Callahan intends to renew the lease with the county when the current term ends in April of 2018. Wallsmith also requested that the board waive the requirement of a written notice of the renewal, but the board declined to do so.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Bass Lake resident Rick Anderson again voiced his disapproval of Callahan’s management of the facilities and suggested several changes at the property over the next year. Others disagreed, including resident Rick Yover. “I’ve seen that beach from the beginning,” Yover said. “Today, it looks better than it ever, ever, ever has. Give these people a chance. I said that before. You’re seeing screws put in boards on the piers. You’re seeing caps put in there. You’re seeing WiFi. You’re seeing fences repaired.”

The age of the facilities was cited as a factor that has made proper repairs a challenge.