Napa County ready to seek Berryessa resort redevelopers

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Companies wanting to revitalize Lake Berryessa resorts with marinas, lodges, restaurants, glamping, a special event center, bird watching and other possible recreation draws, this is your chance.

Napa County is overseeing the hoped-for rebirth of Monticello Shores, Steele Canyon and Spanish Flat resorts. It could release a request-for-proposals to seek possible concessionaires by Nov. 27.

This comes a decade after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation razed the resorts on federal land so new operators could start from scratch. Napa County is trying to jumpstart an effort that stalled under the federal government.

“I’m glad we’re getting to the end — we hope,” county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said during a Lake Berryessa update at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Prospective concessionaires will submit their proposals by early next year. The county Board of Supervisors next spring could choose one or more to redevelop the various resorts, Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said.

The winner or winners will rebuild the resorts virtually from scratch and then run the resorts.

On the county’s behalf in 2017, Ragatz Realty predicted concessionaires will be interested. It issued a report called, “Lake Berryessa, An Untapped Development Opportunity.”

Photographs of vintage postcards from Lake Berryessa’s recreation heyday are included. One shows gas-guzzling, early 1960-era cars with fins parked along the lake at Monticello Shores. Another shows two water-skiers cutting through blue water against a green shoreline in an idyllic summer vacation shot.

“Lake Berryessa is one of the largest and most attractive freshwater lakes in California,” the report said.

This summer, the massive Hennessey Fire blackened much of the Berryessa area landscape, rendering it less than postcard perfect until hills green up again in spring. But Rattigan didn’t see that as hurting the resort redevelopment effort.

A survey in the Ragatz Realty report asked a few thousand Northern Californians what facilities they considered most important for Lake Berryessa. The top vote-getters were convenience grocery stores at 96%, restaurants 93%, trails 91%, equipment rentals 87%, taverns/bars 75%, children’s activities 75%, defined areas for water sports 74%, and evening entertainment 73%.

Also making the list were such things as a zip line, water park, wildlife safari park and wedding venues.

Lake Berryessa has seven resorts on federally owned land and the Bureau of Reclamation razed five of them a decade ago. It wanted to give new concessionaires the freedom to pursue their own ideas without being bound by 50-year-old infrastructure.

But the Bureau of Reclamation had trouble finding concessionaires, with critics saying the 30-year contracts it offered were too short for developers to recoup their investments. Napa County is stepping in because it can try approaches unavailable to a federal agency.
The county will start the revitalization effort by concentrating on three resorts — Spanish Flat, Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores. Berryessa Point and Putah Canyon could come later.

Whatever happens, sparkling new resorts won’t be finished by summer 2021. The county will seek to extend interim agreements with temporary operators at Spanish Flat and Steele Canyon to run campgrounds and boat launches.

County supervisors wanted to make certain the temporary operators won’t be in the way of the hoped-for permanent operators who might be at the resorts planning and building next summer.

“I’m interested in keeping short-term vibrancy there with these two areas,” county Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said. “But it cannot come at the expense of that long-term vision.”

Rattigan said the interim operators will need to grant access to the long-term concessionaires. The Board of Supervisors could vote on Dec. 15 on extending the interim contracts through next summer.

“The presence of recreation at the lake is important and that continuity is important,” Supervisor Belia Ramos said.

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