The residents of Lake Hemet Camp 2B (Bear Camp) were given eviction notices on Dec. 17, 2019. Residents have the option to relocate to Camp 1.
One of the main concerns brought up by residents at Camp 2B is that they are being asked to relocate or are being evicted from Camp 2B to Camp 1, which flooded on Feb. 14, 2019.
According to the residents, BaseCamp Hospitality (also Urban Park Concessionaires) was even refusing to take rent payments from some residents (even if they have selected another site in Camp 1) because they had not signed a new rental agreement for the Camp 1 site that includes a hold harmless agreement, which according to residents, strips them of any rights they may have.
Lake Hemet Municipal Water District (LHMWD) says the cause for relocation to Camp 1 is that Camp 2B has been condemned due to concerns about flooding from Hurkey Creek.
The Town Crier covered the Feb. 14 flooding in a Feb. 28, 2019 front page story “Lake Hemet Campground gets Valentine’s Day flooding.” Accompanying that story was a photo taken by a resident of Camp 1 showing the flooding. The newspaper only published one photo at the time and is republishing the photo here with another photo taken by the same resident that was not previously published for reference. Camp 2B, according to residents, did not flood on Feb. 14, 2019. It washed out some residents’ yards but did not flood.
Why are residents being asked to relocate to an area that floods from an area that could potentially flood? Residents have asked Lake Hemet Campground and have yet to receive a response.
The newspaper also sent the following questions over to LHMWD General Manager Mike Gow and BaseCamp’s Vice President of Marina Operations Tim Colvin on Jan. 31. Gow, who has only responded to one question to date, had previously referred all other questions to Colvin.
Which agency condemned the land at Camp 2B and may I see the documentation supporting it?
What was the outcome of the meeting between board members of the water district and people living at Camp 2B?
What mitigation has been done regarding the silt?
Which agency(ies) were a part of that mitigation?
Has FEMA money been spent?
Has FEMA been out to Lake Hemet? If so, when and why?
Will Lake Hemet pay for relocating the mobile homes left at Camp 2B?
What is the plan for the land at Camp 2B once everyone has been relocated?
Has any of this information been communicated to Caltrans, as it may impact Highway 74?
Gow responded to the email in 23 minutes with “Two claims have been filed against LHMWD. Therefore, I decline to comment. Thanks for understanding.” The newspaper tried to receive clarification on whether it was two claims or two lawsuits, but has yet to receive a response.
Gow in a Dec. 20 email to the newspaper wrote: “The residents are tenants of BaseCamp Hospitality who is the concessionaire for the lake. Therefore, we would ask that you defer all questions to them.” Colvin also did not respond to the above-mentioned questions.
According to the remaining residents, they have to pay for relocation expenses and BaseCamp employees will help the residents move, but are not responsible or liable for any damages that occur during the move. Residents have to submit their new rental agreements by Feb. 15 and move within 30 days.
In email communications obtained by the newspaper in a California Public Records Act Request was a letter from Davis & Wojcik, a professional law corporation, to BaseCamp Hospitality dated Oct. 1, 2019. The firm represents LHMWD.
In the letter, the firm writes “Our office represents LHWMD, which is the landowner of Lake Hemet Campground and Marina in Mountain Center, California. As you are aware, last winter was a heavy season for rain and snow in the area. Consequently, there was some flooding in Campground 2B last season near the campsites along the creek bed.
“Over the summer, Lake Hemet dredged Hurkey Creek following the appropriate recommendations under supervision of district’s (LHMWD) engineer. Unfortunately, water has been and continues to flow from Hurkey Creek into Lake Hemet. Sediment was removed from Hurkey Creek but due to ongoing water flow, the sediment levels did not dissipate adequately and the district does not anticipate it will be able to dredge the creek until the water stops flowing and the lake level drops. This is cause for concern since the campground residents may experience flooding similar to that of last winter or perhaps worse.”
The letter goes on, “While the waterway and lake are the obligation of the district, we want to make clear to BaseCamp that the district has performed its obligations under the agreement and cannot guarantee that no further flooding will occur. Therefore, any further preventative action must be initiated and completed by BaseCamp by relocating the tenants in preparation for the upcoming season.”
The letter also states that “each tenant has signed the ‘Acknowledgement of Risk and Waiver of Liability,’ indicating they waive liability for both district and BaseCamp.” At least one resident told the newspaper that they have not signed the acknowledgment of risk and waiver of liability.
The letter continues, “Therefore until the creek can be dredged, this letter serves as a notice to BaseCamp to close the campground and/or cease its use for long-term camping.” This statement reveals some conflicting information received by the residents, the newspaper and this very letter from Davis & Wojcik. Both were told that the creek was dredged and silt continued to fill the creek after, making it unsafe and a potential for flooding.
In documents obtained through a California Public Records Act request, the newspaper discovered that the following mitigation had been done: “130 hours of standard time force account labor for a total of $7,278.92 and a total of 83.5 equipment hours for a total of $3,141.38 The rented excavator was used by Tom Moses on this project for a total of 24 hours at a rate of $81.29 per hour for a total allocation of $1,950.96. Bringing the total amount for work performed up to this point to $12,371.26.”
A resident told the newspaper that LHMWD dredged from the bridge 200 to 300 feet toward the lake and followed the creek and built up excess sand that was dredged and put along the side so water would run through. Within three to four days, the sand was gone. This resident is claiming that the culverts were never cleaned out. When one of the Lake Hemet Campground employees retired seven to eight years ago, the preventative maintenance on the silt build-up stopped.
The newspaper called Lake Hemet Campground and asked if the district will use the land for something else after all the mobile homes have been relocated. According to the campground, there are no plans to turn it into anything at this time.