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Old     (grant_west)      Join Date: Jun 2005       06-11-2008, 10:56 AM Reply   
By JENNIFER HUFFMAN, Register Business Writer
Normally by this time of year, Rancho Monticello Resort at Lake Berryessa would be gearing up for months of family fun. Instead, owner Bob White is packing up and preparing to close shop. His contract to run the facility expires June 15.

White is one of four lake concessionaires given deadlines from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to end operations and move out over the next three months. Lake Berryessa, which hosts an estimated 1.5 million visitors each year for boating, water skiing, camping and more, is in for a very different kind of summer.

"The whole lake is in limbo," said White.

The closures stem from a June 2006 decision by the Bureau ordering the removal of approximately 1,300 privately owned trailers from the seven lakeside resorts. All of the contracts to run the resorts, 50-year deals between the federal government and the concessionaires that expire over the next several months, were put up for bid.

In April, federal authorities awarded Arizona-based Pensus Group the contracts to operate five concessions at the lakeshore. But as of this week, Pensus hasn't signed any contracts, leaving many resort owners wondering when, or if, new facilities will open.

"Not only are we in limbo, so is the public," said White.

Bureau of Reclamation officials are confident the deal with Pensus will be struck soon, and the lake will begin to take on new life with updated facilities and operations.

"We're working very hard with Pensus to get a contract signed as soon as possible," said Pete Lucero, acting public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in the mid-Pacific region. But Lucero was not optimistic about completing one by June 15.

"The next (deadline) is July 13," he said. "We are hoping to hit that date to have a contract in place. We are trying to make this as smooth a transition as possible, but there are a lot of issues to deal with in a contract like this."

Lucero said the Bureau sees a "bright future" for the lake, with a wider range of overnight amenities, access to the lakeshore and recreational opportunities.

Jeremy Crotts, vice president with the Pensus Group in Arizona, said, "We are currently in negotiations with the BOR on that project and as a result are unable to comment on anything. We're hoping to have a contract settled as soon as possible."

Uncertainty at the shore

While the timing of the deal is uncertain, one thing is clear. Between the time when each resort closes and the new vendor takes over, "There will be no recreation within those concession areas," said Lucero. "If we don't have a contract in place there will be no one to operate the resorts."

Without new contracts, visitors are unable to make reservations beyond the end dates of the present contracts for four out of the seven area resorts: Putah Creek, Rancho Monticello, Spanish Flat and the Berryessa Marina.

"There may be some reduced level of overnight camping and RV sites because of the potential closure of the four westside resorts," said Lucero.

"However, Reclamation is working on a plan to provide some expanded amenities at their own managed facilities at Oak Shores and Camp Berryessa as well as working with the three existing contractors (with) contracts that don't expire this summer Steele Park Resort, Markley Cove Resort and Pleasure Cove Resort to provide additional overnight recreational opportunities," he said.

"We're really working to try and minimize the disruption by trying to provide additional services at other locations."

At Rancho Monticello, by this time of the year White would have normally booked 12,000 visitor days or two-thirds of his summer season. But with his June 15 closure date, "We were only able to book a couple hundred," said White.

White's afraid the new Pensus concessions will take years to develop. In the meantime, his resort is empty, "And it looks like a war zone," he said.

Forced to remove the longstanding trailers and other improvements, only concrete pads, posts, stairs and patios leading to nowhere remain.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions" about the handover, said White.

He'd like to know who will pay for security for the property to prevent vandalism of his employee housing and other improvements after he moves out. Pensus was awarded the bid, he said, "but until they sign a contract with the Bureau they have no obligations."

Lucero responded, "We are working on a strategy to provide some level of security for the property. It could include patrols, working with the existing concessionaires to provide their own security, or providing a security service. We need to determine what will fit best."

White also expressed concern about his workers.

"In the record of decision the Bureau promised preferences for current employees to be hired by the new (operators). But I have to remove all the employee housing," said White. "Which means the employees will go away."

His biggest question is "When is (Pensus) going to sign?"

White is also concerned that Pensus may delay signing a contract due to a lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of four current concessionaires.

"We would like a smooth transition and are not getting one," said White.

Lucero said unsigned contracts have "nothing to do" with the current resort owners' lawsuit in Washington, D.C., said Lucero.

'People were not prepared'

Rich Delaney, partner at Spanish Flat Resort, must shut down operations by July 13 and remove all his permanent facilities.

"That is a monumental job," he said, referring to buildings, roads, parking lots and a sewer treatment plant. "We're scrambling around trying to answer the request," he said.

Delaney was also wishing for a smoother handover. "I've never seen anything quite as unorganized," he said. "I would like to find our employees a job but at this point we don't even know there will be a new operator."

Delaney, a partner in the resort since 1989, said normally by this time most summer reservations would have been booked, especially in the resort's travel trailer park.

"But we've had to tell everyone to remove their trailers. It's pretty much a ghost town."

Heavy moving equipment has displaced the trailers, many now in Dumpsters or carted away.

"People were not prepared. Maybe they didn't really think it would come to this," said Delaney.

"It's a fiasco," said Spanish Flat Resort partner Jim Kenney. "The deal with the new concession owner should have been resolved a year ago. These negotiations should have been done prior to the fact, not after the termination date of the lease," he said.

A summer closure "screwed us," he said. With a number of new cabins now 23 total and 24 fishing tournaments planned, "This year would have been our best year," said Kenney. Instead, "We are down to 30 trailers, from 200 and a waiting list."

If he hadn't faced closure, Kenney estimated $2.2 million in gross revenue for the year.

Instead, the resort has cut off reservations as of July 13. After that, "We don't know what's going to go on."

"Where else have you got a lake where you can go fishing, boating and camping, that's within 90 minutes of the Bay Area?" asked Kenney. "A lot of this is just an absolute waste."

Lucero said the bureau is working to handle all the concerns of the departing concessionaires, while also setting the stage for a revitalized lakeshore. Things will come into focus, he said, when the contract with the new operator is signed.
Sent to me by my buddy:

"Contractor-designees are coming in to make some major capital improvements and provide an expanded level of service and an unprecedented level of access to the general public," said Lucero. "That development will take place over the course of the next few years with development beginning almost as soon as we have contracts signed."
Old     (airagain)      Join Date: Jun 2006       06-11-2008, 4:41 PM Reply   
Definitely a summer of transition. I lost my trailer at Pleasure Cove 3 years ago and now have a houseboat there. I imagine it will be a little more crowded in the campsites and RV areas this year. Another reason to make sure I get of the dock and out in a cove someplace.
Old     (hillbilly)      Join Date: Aug 2002       06-11-2008, 11:19 PM Reply   
So you can still have houseboats? Who do you get the permit from?
Old    mendo247            06-12-2008, 7:36 AM Reply   
Pretty sad. I have many fond memories of parties and bbqs at spanish flat, stelle park and pleasure cove properties.
Old     (wakeguru)      Join Date: Feb 2003       06-12-2008, 7:41 AM Reply   
bummer, G.

does this have anything to do with the "drought"?

we've been in a drought here in FL for about two years and many of the small lakes are unrideable, including mine....however, we are getting some rain now.

please use water wisely folks - it's not an endless resource....although folks in the midwest might not recognize this right now. feast or famine it seems.
Old     (airagain)      Join Date: Jun 2006       06-12-2008, 7:48 AM Reply   

There are about 70 private houseboat permits for the lake. When I saw the writing on the wall, years before I lost my trailer, I put myself on the waiting list with BOR. Fortunately for me, when the new management took over Pleasure Cove they expanded the amount of slips for houseboats. This resulted in the BOR going to this list and I was one of the lucky ones. As you can imagine the list now has 100s of people. It is not like Shasta where you can sell your permit. If you give up your permit it goes to the next person on the list. Because of this very few houseboats or permits change hands. If you have to sell your boat it is a huge hassle as it has to be taken off the lake, unless the next person on the list wants to buy it. This is a very rare happening.
Old     (rektek)      Join Date: Aug 2005       06-19-2008, 1:10 AM Reply   
lots of good info here if anyone is interested.

I keep a boat stored at berryessa and I'm very glad the trailers are finally gone. these resort owners used public property and put private trailers on the very best spots near the lake for profit, denying public use for which the lake was setup for.

I fear this might be tied up in courts a while longer to determine any value to the out going concessioners.

bottom line is if the resort owners had not privatised public land with their shanty town trailers and raw sewage pouring into the lake they would all probably have a new deal in place.
some resorts were worse than others but they all had the illegal trailers.
Old     (deltardr)      Join Date: Jun 2006       06-19-2008, 10:54 AM Reply   
I hope everything works out, i love berryessa. Even if it does have rattlesnakes that swim.
Old     (russian)      Join Date: Feb 2008       06-21-2008, 11:42 AM Reply   
Mr choppy, the concessionaires leased the land from the BOR 50 years ago. They had every right to then lease the land to individual mobile home owners. It was not "public Property" nor were they under any obligation to make any area in THERE park available for public use. Allowing trailers to have illegal plumbing and electricity isn't right, but that is not the reason for this move.
It will be interesting to see what the new concessionaires do. I don't like the idea of big resort hotels lining the shores of Lake Berryessa, but this is what the BOR has been talking about doing for years now.
My family has had 5 different trailers at Berryessa marina since the late 50's. We got out in the mid 90's. It's sad to see all my friends places be destroyed. I can only hope the new campgrounds will be a safe place to go camping
Old     (kottonm0uthking4)      Join Date: Apr 2007       06-21-2008, 2:08 PM Reply   
My family has been there since the 50s--putah creek and spanish flats.

Mr. Choppy--of course they will give the best spots to the long term customers. why would they dedicate the best spots for campers who stay a week at most. 75% of Lake Berryessas revenue came from the long term sites. The best way to keep these customers, and to stabilize their revenue sources is to have the best spots reserved for long-term sites.

And having a lease from the government gives these resort owners the right to do what they want--within the contracts guidelines. These owners stayed within the terms of the contract... so you really cant say public land became privatized. If they did not, the contract would have became void, and everyone would have been kicked out before the contract expired.

Also... raw sewage wasn't dumping into the lake. comon
Old     (rektek)      Join Date: Aug 2005       06-21-2008, 2:27 PM Reply   
the leases clearly stated "develop for public use"
making 10 campsites on top of each other and use all the prime spots for private trailers doesn't seem like the best use of public land. it aways was and still is public land, the leases didn't state "do with as you see fit"

take a look at pleasure cove, the upgrades there have been outstanding with real boat docks and fuel pumps. the previous owners were not putting a dime into the place and clearly making some serious bank.

I had a friend who had a trailer at PC, yeah cool place to hang until you watch all the raw sewage running into the lake from these 1950's trailers.

PC was probably the worst offenders and it just got out of control, the opposite end was monticello which was very clean and well run.
pc probably ruined it for the rest of resorts.

I inquired about indoor boat storage at Steel park one time, after waiting over a hour for some worker to show me what they had.... we drive up to a rusty tin building with broken doors and dirt floors full of spiders. my boat was worth more than the whole boat storage facility.why is that ?
I know why, the steel park owner is not putting money back into the properity.

ultimately Berryessa will be better off, I hope for something like Oroville.
Old     (russian)      Join Date: Feb 2008       06-21-2008, 5:45 PM Reply   
I've been hoping for something like Oroville all along.
I think "developed for public use" could be interpreted a few ways. The resort owners were operating a business under a lease from the BOR, And just like any other lease, they can do as they wish as long as it does not violate the contract.
Old     (nickdakoolkat)      Join Date: Sep 2005       06-22-2008, 5:38 PM Reply   
I just hope they dont turn the whole lake (or at least all the good coves) into a 5mph zone for kayaking like i have heard they want to be honest i liked the trailors, sure they were a bit trashy, but it gave the lake character.
Old     (kottonm0uthking4)      Join Date: Apr 2007       06-23-2008, 7:43 PM Reply   
Yea, I agree. Trashy... although the retards that brought the knives during the 3 big weekends were a huge source of the trash.

It got really bad towards the end. And this wasnt even the people in the trailers. Its the people who go and rent a boat from one of the marinas, get trashed, and then decide to settle their baby mama drama at the bridge.

To be honest, I am going to miss this lake. I wont be going back. The water is too terrible to even justify spending the weekend there. At least when i had my trailer I could get out at 7, come back at 10, sleep until 6, then go back out. Now its not even worth it to go there. Too many memories at my trailer, and now they are all gone.

Which lake is everyone (those who got kicked out)going to now? I have nowhere to go, and no one to ride with.


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