ANGOLA — Steuben County is possibly going to collaborate with Clear Lake entities on better managing the Steuben County Park at Clear Lake.
In a meeting with the Steuben County Council on Tuesday, Commissioner Lynne Liechty said there needs to be better oversight at the park and the county should look possibly to the town of Clear Lake and the Clear Lake Township Land Conservancy as partners in managing the park. The conservancy owns the popular Kasota Island and 14 other properties at the lake.
The county owns 1.62 acres and 230 frontage feet on Clear Lake, which has some of the, if not the, highest property values of all Steuben County lakes. Earlier this month the Board of Commissioners broached selling the property. On Tuesday, Liechty said she would only favor selling the property to the town, the conservancy or both, as did Councilman Jim Getz.
“I am looking at oversight, I am looking at liability. We have not done a good job of either,” Liechty said.
Getz said he visited the park on Monday and was impressed with the use and said he thought taxpayers were using the park, which features a nice sandy beach but has a steep hill that accesses the water.
“I have totally been against the county being in the park business,” Getz said, but, “that visit changed my mind.”
Councilman Dan Caruso said contact needs to be made with the town council to get their feel on a collaborative approach to managing the resource.
Clear Lake resident Neil Ledet wrote the council and said numerous people use the beach and it shouldn’t be sold.
“This is a popular beach. On July 5 at 2:45 p.m. there were 103 people using the beach. There were enough beachgoers arriving and leaving at that snapshot in time that it was a little difficult to get a count. No telling how many people were there throughout the day. If this beach is sold, where are the current users supposed to go?” Ledet said.
There are two parcels that make up the park, divided by a drive into the property. The drive is used by Fremont Community Schools to make a turn as it picks up and drops off students who live in the area.
County attorney Don Stuckey told the commissioners on July 1 the county had the property appraised about 10 years ago. He did not reveal the value from that document, but noted it is way out of date.
Liechty said because of its proximity to Steuben County Parks headquarters on Crooked Lake, the department’s two employees have difficulty getting to Clear Lake to monitor it.
This year the county is spending $11,000 to make a more gradual approach to the upper parking area to the beach. The county spends about $4,500 a year on trash collection and other maintenance.
Compared to Crooked Lake, at 1.62 acres the Clear Lake Park is small. Crooked Lake is 73 acres and has a beach, campgrounds and 4-H Fairgrounds. It also has a boat ramp, which is operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. There’s also concessions and some non-motorized watercraft rental.
By law, the county would have to sell it for the appraised value, unless it was selling to another unit of government.