Bass Lake Beach Operator Considers Giving Part of Beach Back to County, As Lease Renewal Proceeds

The Bass Lake Beach and Campground will continue to be operated by Callahan Development, LLC for another 10 years, but the company may be willing to turn some of the property back over to Starke County. The county owns the facility, but has leased it to Callahan since 2008. Now, Callahan has given the county written notice that it will exercise its option to renew the lease through April of 2028.

Callahan’s attorney Todd Wallsmith discussed the process with the Starke County Park Board Tuesday. “The lease is effectively renewed at this point,” he explained. “We’ve given notice of our intent to renew the lease. There is not an option in the lease for another renewal after the 10 years. There is not a rewriting of the lease or anything else. The only issue that remains in the lease to be resolved is how much the county intends to raise the rental.”

But Wallsmith said Callahan is open to the idea of giving the beach itself back to the county, while the company would continue to run the more profitable campground and pier slots. “The reality is the expenses of maintaining a beach, perhaps the way some people want to see it and certainly in light of some of the things that the DNR had recommended with the stone being put down, et cetera, it’s cost prohibitive. It’s not something that any business would be able to do. It’s more akin to something that a government would do. A government would have to seek grants for it, in order to really effectuate that.”

Wallsmith and County Attorney Marty Lucas said there are a lot of issues that would need to be worked out. But Lucas said if that could be done, there would be many potential benefits, like grant funding and increased public involvement. “I just think you’re going to find the public is going to be more interested in volunteer activities if the beach was being operated publicly,” Lucas said.

Still, a group of local residents wants both parties to work together to clarify some of the terms of the lease. Park Board President Debbie Mix has suggested forming a work group to help set some future goals.