The Community Center Leadership Group: L to R Jaimie Mercer Thomson, Mike McKay, Ann Swain, Mick Thorrez, Meredythe Hill Van Dusen, Flip Reynolds. Not pictured – Rick Belcher. The photo was taken at the Sunday, October 17, meeting. The photo above the fireplace shows the historic structure on its trip from Kentucky Point to its present location in the County Park.
Work is moving forward to restore this Clark Lake icon. Recently three members of the Community Center’s Leadership Group–Flip Reynolds, Ann Swain and Rick Belcher–spent a day clearing out unneeded items and reorganizing the rest. The historic building is in the process of being thoroughly cleaned. These early steps only portend what’s ahead.
The Community Center is now 124 years old. An engineering study confirmed that it is structurally sound, but the house cries out for help. Renovation is imperative. Delay will worsen its plight. Let it go, and Clark Lake will lose this historic icon. Below are some easily visible signs of trouble.
Repairs will cost $150,000 to $175,000 (March 2021 estimates). Why so much? Among other problems, the entire lower deck must be replaced. Soffits and facia have deteriorated. The elements have hastened further damage and created openings for enterprising critters. Add to that less visible, but solvable, issues.
In addition to being a meeting place for lake activities and organizations, the Community Center is rented for events like weddings, reunions, graduation parties, and life celebrations. The question has been asked, “won’t event rentals cover the cost?” No. Event rentals help pay current expenses like utilities, but come nowhere near covering costly construction work. The Foundation plans to reach out to Clark Lakers to enable the work to go forward.
Will it be possible to raise funds?
A look at the structure’s history is revealing. In the late 1990s, this Kentucky Point cottage met the century mark. But it was also about to meet the business end of a bulldozer. Realizing its value to the lake, a group of Clark Lakers rose up to save it. They sat weekly at the roundtable in the northeast corner of the original Eagle’s Nest and exchanged ideas on how to rescue it. Overcoming the problems of where to take it, or how to get it there, they imagined the ultimate solution—and then turned the dream into reality. To avoid chopping through obstacles like 400 year old oaks, they strapped this three story house onto a barge, towed it down the lake, and gently perched it high atop the hill in the County Park.
Once in the Park, renovations began. The cost was heavy back then. The totals were similar to today’s restoration estimates.
Two non-profits with 501c3 status have existed at Clark Lake over the last couple of decades. One of them, the Community Center board, asked the other, the Clark Lake Spirit Foundation, to assume ownership and to operate the building. (The Foundation is the umbrella organization for the Spirit Trail, Run Clark Lake, Raft-O-Rama, Crab Races, and Garden Angels. It also publishes this website). When the Foundation was asked to care for the building, it surveyed Clark Lakers. To the question “do you want to see the Community Center repaired?”, 88% said “yes.” Eighty-four percent said they would support it financially, if asked. That’s important to know as the Foundation develops its fundraising plans.
Former fundraising hit resistance because of legal stipulations in the agreement with the County that allows the house to be in the Park. A new agreement had to be reached every five years. Donors could only be assured the house would remain under Clark Lake ownership for the length of that agreement, no more than five years. The Foundation worked out a new arrangement with the County that assures that Clark Lake will own the house into the foreseeable future—two successive 20 year terms. This thorny problem is now resolved. Is that all? No. Please read on to see how Clark Lake distinguishes itself from other communities.
When Clark Lakers decide to take on a challenge, they win the day. Think the Spirt Trail, DamStrong, Welcome to Clark Lake Sign, the gardens, aquatic weed control—and the Clark Lake organizations that put on awesome events that consistently make this a better place. The Community Center serves as a symbol of this unyielding community spirit. The structure stood guard for a century on Kentucky Point. Today it continues to do so, and wears its crown as it overlooks the County Park and lake.
This Victorian lady has suffered indignities. Don’t let them be fatal. Clark Lake will soon be asked to stand up for her again. When the time comes, will you help?
This video tells the story of the move from Kentucky Point to the County Park. In it you’ll see historic footage and photos. If you haven’t seen it, or its been awhile, check it out. It starts with the comments of the cottage’s previous owner.