HELIX WATER BOARD MAJORITY OPTS TO KEEP LAKE JENNINGS CAMPGROUND OPEN...FOR NOW

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By Miriam Raftery

September 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—In light of improved revenues and reduced losses at Lake Jennings, the majority of Helix Water District board members on Wednesday opted to support keeping the lake and its campground open for another year in hopes that it will become financially sustainable.

Board members Kathleen Coates-Hedberg, Joel Scalziti, and Chuck Muse supported the extension.  However, two board members, DeAna Verbeke and John Linden, want the staff to explore options and costs on shutting it down

Coates-Hedberg told ECM, “The staff will be bringing back a board report with these suggestions for a vote.”  She adds, “When it gets on the agenda, then we need to get everyone there – spending money and staff time to consider shutting it down is ludicrous!”

But Linden took the opposing view. “We are in the water business, not in the camping or entertainment business,” he stated at the meeting, UT San Diego reports. “I'm strongly against water rates going up for something not water-related."

Scalzitti, who pushed successfully for formation of a special committee to seek ways to make the lake financially viable in order to keep it open to the public, noted that the campground supports the fishing program and that if the campground were closed, revenues from fishing would be negatively impacted.

As ECM reported last week, losses for recreational activities such as fishing at the lake have dropped 88%, though losses for running the campground fell only 30%. The improvement is due largely to increased revenues from fishing and camping, as well  as some cost cutting measures.  Overall, losses from operating the lake fell 56% from fiscal year 2013 to 2014.

A special committee has been exploring options to save public access to Lake Jennings after some board members last year called for the lake to be closed and the campground decommissioned.  The lake is also a popular destination for hikers and picnickers, as well as fishermen and campers.

Three members of the public spoke on Wednesday, all in support of keeping the lake open, Hedberg advised ECM. These included two individuals who come to the lake regularly with children in a 4-H club and another who regularly visits the campground.

Another speaker, Bob Reed of La Mesa, suggested that having the campground run by a camp host system could save enough money to make it financially sustainable.