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Closure of popular recreation facility among options

By Miriam Raftery


November 3, 2013 (La Mesa) – At its meeting on Wednesday, November 6, Helix Water District will vote on whether to have staff prepared detailed reports on four options for the future of Lake Jennings. Those options include:

  • close the lake to the public and decommission campgrounds and fishing facilities,
  • limit public access to only hiking, picnicking and fishing- -but the lake would no longer be stocked with fish and campgrounds would be decommissioned,
  • Maintain camping and fishing and invest $1,600,000 to $3,600,000 in renovations, or
  • Create a master plan for renovation and expansion based on the 2007 Lake Jennings Campground Master Plan at a cost of $8 million to $15 million, with additional expenses for permitting, environmental impact and mitigation.

A 2007 financial analysis indicated it would take ten years for a net positive cash flow and another ten years to break even on capital investment from the master plan.  But a later review by the same expert who prepared the 2007 study concluded in 2013 that those projections were optimistic and that capital return on investment may not occur during the useful life of the facilities.  However without investment in the campgrounds that exist, the facility also would remain a financial drain.

Board member Joel Scalzitti has fought against closure of the facility.  “I wanted an exploratory committee to keep it going,” he told ECM, voicing dismay that the Board has not made efforts to create such a committee.

Some other recreational cities in the region have private foundations that partner with public facilities to help raise funds and awareness, such as the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation, Volcan Mountain Foundation, Lake Cuyamaca Foundation, and Palomar State Park Foundation. The latter successfully raised over $72,000 to prevent closure of Palomar Mountain State Park during the state’s budget crisis.

As a follow up to the Lake Jennings Workshop held in September, staff proposes to provide the Board with additional information on four alternatives. Specifically, staff will present a five year rate analysis of each of the alternatives in the form of the District's Five Year Projection. Once the results of the five year rate analysis are presented, the Board will be asked to direct staff to proceed with an implementation plan for one of the alternatives or request additional information and analysis before making a final decision.

The board meeting will be held Wednesday, November 6 at 3 p.m. at the Helix Board headquarters, 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.

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