Starke County Park Board Considers Forming Bass Lake Beach and Campground Work Group

The Starke County Park Board is thinking about putting together a work group to help set goals for the future of the Bass Lake Beach and Campground. But how much good that would do was a topic of debate during Tuesday’s park board meeting.

The operator of the facility, Callahan Development, LLC, plans to renew its lease with the county next spring. Before that happens, though, Park Board President Debbie Mix says the lease needs to be clarified and improved.

To do that, she’s suggesting that the park board assemble a group of four to six stakeholders. That may include a representative of the facility, a user of the Bass Lake Campground, a local homeowner, a park board member, and a county commissioner. “My thought is this small group gets together after really combing through everything and every side is heard,” she explained. “Then they come back with a recommendation to the board, and then we can either accept all of their recommendations, pick and choose, but I’m sure that kind of small group will come up with something better than just the few of us.”

County Attorney Marty Lucas said that while the group could be very helpful, there are limits on what can be changed in the lease. “It doesn’t say you go negotiate a new lease,” he explained. “What it says is, ‘This lease continues for another 10 years,’ actually. Now, if there’s a term in there that says rents can be increased, that term’s in place now or maybe it kicks in at that point, but really, what the renewal does is it just gives that lease 10 more years of life. It doesn’t actually create a new one.”

He added that changes or clarifications can be made if both sides agree to them, but that’s not easy to accomplish. “What we need to be able to do is offer the other party inducements to work with us,” Lucas said. “We can’t just wave around sticks. We need to have some carrots. We need to articulate why it would help them, why it would be good for them.”

Park board member Rosemary Rose had her own concerns with the idea of a work group. She noted that the park board would already know each potential group member’s opinion on the matter before appointing them, making it hard to make any progress.

In the end, the park board decided to wait another month before deciding whether to officially seek volunteers.