Three times this year, this website reported on changes ahead for the Clark Lake Community Center. 

The Community Center is one of two non-profit (501c3) organizations at the lake.  The mission of the Community Center board has been to own and operate the building.  The other non-profit, the Clark Lake Spirit Foundation, publishes this website and serves as an umbrella for the Spirit Trail, Raft-O-Rama, Crab Races, and Run Clark Lake. 

Last fall, the Community Center board asked the Foundation to assume ownership and to operate the building.  The Foundation directors voted unanimously to accept.  Because the structure is located in the County Park, the County also had to agree.  At a County board meeting on Tuesday, August 17th, commissioners voted to approve a new license agreement with the Foundation. The license allows the house to remain in the Park.  

Getting to last Tuesday was not simple.  Prior to the vote of the full Commission, both the Foundation and Parks Board devoted considerable time and effort to negotiate the license agreement.  The Foundation performed its due diligence—the terms of the existing license agreement, the extent to which Clark Lake wanted the Community Center to remain, and the condition of the building. The Parks Board also conducted its own review.  The work between the County and Foundation considered the views of the stakeholders by addressing the needs of the park and concerns of the County, the Foundation’s goal to preserve the house, its usage and long term sustainability.  More than two people shaking hands, this process required the participation of many.  It involved the Foundation directors, Community Center board, and multiple entities representing County government—the Parks Board, General Government Committee, and the full Commission. 

So, after all that, what are the highlights? 

A provision of critical importance stands out.  In the past, it was necessary for the Community Center to negotiate a new agreement with the County every five years.  That always cast doubt on whether the Community Center would remain under local control, or if it would even be allowed to remain in the Park.  The new license agreement with the Foundation now consists of a twenty year term, which is renewable for another twenty, and sets the stage for the future beyond that.  

The Foundation felt this was essential to the preservation of this historic Clark Lake landmark.   Why?  Because of the investment necessary to sustain it.  As part of the Foundation’s due diligence, the directors commissioned an engineering study that found the “bones” of the house were sound, but major renovations were required.  The engineering study led to developing a scope of work, and estimates were applied to individual improvements.  In January, the total ranged between $150,000 and $176,000.  The long term future is now assured.  When Clark Lakers step up to save the Community Center, they will know they have a lasting investment that will remain under local control. 

Much like the Spirit Trail, Welcome to Clark Lake Sign, and Dam Strong, the Center is bold evidence that this community cares about its culture.  Saving the Community Center is preserving Clark Lake’s past and strengthening its future.  The Center is the ideal setting for events, public and private.  Tomorrow, please return to this website for one story of how this plays out.   You’ll read how one 90-year old Clark Laker experienced the surprise of a life—at the Community Center. 

This historic building is often called a shining example of what Clark Lake can do when it makes up its mind.  But with it comes a dose of cold reality.  Without renovations, the Community Center will deteriorate and not be usable in five years.  Some repairs must take place now, and others, soon.   This slide show illustrates a cursory look at a few exterior issues. 

The Foundation’s first order of business will be twofold—engage in fundraising and to set in motion the needed repairs. The Community Center has been able to pay current expenses from rentals each summer, and the Harvest Moon fundraiser every other year.  That income stream is no way sufficient to pay for the renovations. 

Here’s a video recorded early this summer of an event that shows one of the uses of the Center, and that these rentals help pay day-to-day Community Center expenses.  

It took moving mountains and plenty of cash to save one of Clark Lake’s original cottages from the wrecking ball.  And that happened in a most ingenious fashion—by floating it down the lake on a barge, and then renovating it once in the Park.  Once again this Clark Lake icon is on the eve of destruction, this time from disrepair.  Can it be saved again?  The Foundation is taking on the challenge.  Are you in?