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Boat club working to save Lake Clementine

User groups essential to saving park, foundation VP says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local Auburn State Recreation Area user groups are doing what they can to keep the American River Canyon, including Lake Clementine, open for future public use. John Brun, president of the Auburn Boat Club, which has been in existence since 1952, said the club has almost doubled its marina slip tenant fees from $400 per season to $700 per season to provide some of the money California State Parks needs to manage the recreation area. “The boat club committed to State Parks for the 2011 season an extra $15,000 over our regular concession agreement,” Brun said. “We were given the option of coming up with $15,000 or the gate closes.” Brun said the club is hoping this will give elected officials time to come up with a long-term solution for keeping the area open. Brun said as a nonprofit social group, the boat club can’t really raise its own funds, so it’s encouraging those who use the recreation area to donate to the California State Parks Foundation. Traci Verardo-Torres, vice president of government affairs at the foundation, said the foundation is currently having talks with the boat club to set up a donation program so money could go straight to the Auburn State Recreation Area. Brun said the club also gets information out at local events. “We have handed out a lot of fliers,” he said. “We had a booth at the Blues Fest.” The club has been working with elected officials to promote solutions, Brun said. “We have been working with Congressman (Tom) McClintock’s office, Assemblyman (Ted) Gaine’s office, Sen. Dave Cox’s Office and Sen. Aanestad’s Office, and they have been trying to find funds,” he said. Rocky Deal, district director for McClintock’s office, said the congressman is committed to finding long-term funding for Lake Clementine and the entire recreation area. A big part of that has been meeting with those who use the park. “Since (McClintock) came into office, our office has been engaged continuously with virtually every user group in every meeting,” Deal said. Deal said user group efforts, like those of the boat club, are important when it comes to keeping the focus on certain issues. “Whenever people express their interest in something, they make sure it stays in the forefront of the minds of the people who have the power to take action,” he said. “The user groups making sure that everyone understands how important (the park) is to the area … that certainly can’t hurt.” Verardo-Torres said user groups getting involved in the fight to keep the recreation area open are a very important part of the process. “That is … what saves state parks,” she said. “The situation in Auburn is obviously a pretty complicated one … so the more citizens that can get involved to bring the public’s voice to the table the better.” Brun said Lake Clementine would be a horrible resource to lose. “There are over 100,000 people who visit the park every year,” Brun said. “Lake Clementine is the second most visited part of the park … No. 2 behind the Confluence. It is so pristine. You are 15 minutes away from town, but (it seems like) you are 1,000 miles away from civilization.” Auburn resident Stuart Proffitt, who has been a member of the boat club for eight years, said the Auburn area would not only lose a great recreational resource if the Auburn State Recreation Area was closed, but a great financial resource as well. “Lake Clementine offers significant recreational opportunities for the users of the lake as well as offering significant financial impact to the Auburn area community as a whole, due to the recreation on the lake,” Proffitt said. Mike Michaelsen, who has been a member of the boat club for 34 years, said if the recreation area is closed the park could become more of a risk, because unsupervised patrons would still use the area. “One of the problems with closing it is you still have to go down there and patrol it,” Michaelsen said. “You can lock a gate, but people can walk around those.” Michaelsen said he thinks more revenue could be gained by charging those who kayak and canoe on the lake a launching fee like boaters have. “They kayakers and canoers are great people and they don’t want to see (the lake) closed either, but maybe that is a great source of revenue there that hasn’t been tapped,” he said. Club Member Chris Mesker said he thinks the solution is to sell or lease the land to a private company that could continue to run it as a recreation area. “Privatization would probably be a good answer,” Mesker said. Mesker said he thinks those concerned need to continue to raise the issue to elected officials. “Kick and scream to your local congressmen, your local legislators,” he said. “And don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let the government shove this down our throats.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------- California State Parks Foundation Call: (916) 442-2119 Website: calparks.org E-mail: members@calparks.org