Summer season a real possibility
By Mike Harris
A new chapter in Lake Gregory’s rich and colorful history is about to be written as county supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved Lake Gregory Community Recreation Company to operate Lake Gregory Regional Park.
“We have a real desire to hit the ground running,” said Steve Garcia, who will be one of the corporate managers for Lake Gregory Community Recreation Company, “and the county wants Lake Gregory to be ready to open by Memorial Day.”
The new company, which will operate as a California limited liability company, will have a 15-year contract with the county to operate Lake Gregory Regional Park, with two additional five-year options, making it for a total of 25 years.
“We simply will be known as Lake Gregory,” said Garcia, who added that the public should look for the new company website, www.lakegregory.com, to go live once the contract is signed by all parties.
The new company promises to bring local control back to Lake Gregory, which has struggled under a couple of private companies to operate what some consider as the county’s crown jewel regional park, as well as the county’s mismanagement.
Before the county decided to outsource day-to-day management and operations of the lake, the county struggled under a range of red-ink years which showed the county annual deficits ranging in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The new operations company promises to bring local control and local influence to how the lake will be run in the years ahead.
“It’s a question of what to do with those priorities,” Garcia said. “We need to bring back to the community that which the community desires the most, as well as bringing some new things as well,” he told The Alpine Mountaineer.
“We want to make it (operating the lake) a win for the community and for the tourists who want to come up and enjoy Lake Gregory. And we want to make this a win for the county as well.”
The new operational company faces a monumental task. When the previous private operator’s agreement ended, much of the infrastructure was sold off at pennies on the dollar — row boats were sold for $25 each, fishing tackle basically was given away, and other items were simply carted away or dumped.
A heavy winter storm some years back destroyed the lake’s boat docks, leaving what was left as unsafe or unusable.
To help rebuild what was stripped away or destroyed, the county agrees to infuse the deal with about $1.5 million to help pay for new docks, new boats, new life jackets, new fishing tackle and other rentable items for the public, as well as some repairs to the San Moritz Lodge.
Unless the COVID-19 virus makes it not possible, the county wants a summer season to return in 2021, starting with Memorial Day weekend, along with other Lake Gregory recreational opportunities such as fishing.
Plans are ambitious. The county contract includes the new company creating a new campground out of the old Camp Switzerland camping area, which is just across Lake Drive from the dam.
For many years, the private campground operated as a summertime retreat for campers coming up from down the hill.
But when the county no longer had any choice but to reinforce the old dam to make it safer, the county was forced to condemn Camp Switzerland through eminent domain and compensate the owners.
Since them, the Camp Switzerland campground and its existing buildings were razed and the property cleared.
Under terms of the contract, the new company must do the following:
• San Moritz Lodge to be open daily, excluding Christmas Day.
• Parking lots to remain open year-round.
• Boat docks shall be accessible March 1 through Dec. 31 annually.
• The swim area shall be in operation Memorial Day through Labor Day annually.
• Camp Switzerland shall be in operation year-round once development and construction is completed.
• Trails and fishing shall be offered year-round.
• The Senior Lunch Program shall operate year-round at the San Moritz Lodge.
That’s just some of the terms of the agreement.
Once again, there will be a parking fee at Lake Gregory Regional Park, and enforcement of those requirements.
“The county requires parking fees for all its regional parks,” Garcia said.
As soon as the contract is signed, Garcia said, he would contact the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station about providing enforcement.
“Afterall, it is the county’s property, and the county has a right to enforce parking fees,” he said.
Garcia stressed that there were no plans to fence the entire regional park, as other regional parks have done.
The plan, he added, is to create packages for residents and tourists as well that are cost effective.
“The county has a uniform pricing model (for parking) and we will have to apply it,” he said. “But, like Disneyland, we plan to bundle that (parking fees) with other offerings, such as an annual pass.”
New ideas and features for the lake, he said, include a zipline to add to summer fun opportunities.
Additional plans include reopening the North Shore Grill during the summer and bringing back the San Moritz Lodge as a wedding venue.
Other plans include expanding the park’s dog park, offering more playground areas and offering the old San Moritz baseball field for soccer and youth baseball.
Garcia said there is much more to what the new company wants to do for Lake Gregory; plans will be detailed in the coming weeks.
“But this has to be a win-win situation,” he stressed. “First, for the residents, and also for the tourists who come up and help with our local economy, and for the county as well,. If we do all that, then and only then, Lake Gregory Community Recreation Company will benefit.”