The Koontz Lake Association currently oversees the area. During Tuesday’s meeting, Park Board President Roger Chaffins said he was contacted by local officials asking for the county’s assistance. “They wanted two loads of sand,” he explained. “And then they just called me this past week, and they’d like to have two picnic tables, but we don’t have picnic tables.”
Chaffins didn’t think the Koontz Lake shoreline was the park board’s responsibility, but County Attorney Marty Lucas said it could be, since the land was dedicated for public use. “There’s some case law supportive of the proposition that the executive authority for the geographic locality has power to act as trustee on behalf of the public in matters of public dedications of land,” Lucas explained. “Because this is an unincorporated portion of Starke County, my opinion is Starke County would have jurisdiction to act as trustee on behalf of the public.”
But he clarified that the county does not own the land outright and has no power to sell it. “This is a situation where it’s more like an easement of a road,” he said, “only it was an easement that was not created for vehicles. It was an easement created for public enjoyment.”
Lucas said Starke County is probably not obligated to maintain the area, but park board member Rosemary Rose spoke in favor of the park board helping out. Lucas suggested that the board might want to work on an agreement to share responsibility with the Koontz Lake Association. Chaffins agreed to reach out to them to begin discussions.