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Lake Berryessa resort vision details emerge

Lake Berryessa

An undated aerial view of Lake Berryessa from Stebbins Cold Canyon.

A floating fitness center, glamping, a boardwalk with dining and retail, hiking, a sunken ship guided dive, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf — all are on the table for Lake Berryessa resorts.

Napa County will negotiate with Sun Communities to redevelop Steele Canyon, Spanish Flat, and Monticello Shores resorts. The county recently released Sun Communities’ proposal.

The total estimated investment for the three resorts is $175.5 million, according to the proposal.

“We see there’s a tremendous opportunity. We’re looking forward to working with the community as a whole as we work through this process,” said Bill Raffoul, senior vice president of development for Sun Communities, on Friday.

Steele Canyon is the largest site. It is to become the hub for the Sun Communities resort vision.

The Launch at Steele Canyon would be “a family-friendly, marina-based rustic glamping resort, packed with activities, dining, and retail for guests of all ages,” the proposal said.

A craft brew restaurant, up to 250 wet marina slips and 200 dry storage marina slips, a boardwalk, dive center, pool, trails, swims to Spanish Flat, snorkeling, floating obstacle course, high ropes course, conservation and forestry workshops, miniature golf and grocery/marketplace are among the possible features.

Outpost at Spanish Flat would be a “boutique resort” and “luxury glamping resort with world-class amenities, relaxing activities and intimate experiences with nature,” the proposal said.

Hillside therapeutic soaking tubs, fitness center and spa, electric boat marina, clubhouse with pool and swim-up bar, star gazing deck, a taco shop, hiking trails, “Lookout Tower and Sunset Restaurant,” wedding lawn and sunrise/sunset outdoor yoga challenge stairs are among the possible features.

Shoreline at Monticello Shores would be “two resorts in one: a family-friendly resort and adult-secluded retreat with RV camping options, luxury villa-pods, and stunning shoreline access throughout,” the proposal said.

A boardwalk with dining and artisan shops, a clubhouse with a bowling alley, floating music and movies on the lake, wildflower hill, sailing school, kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals and an outdoor pizza oven kitchen are among the possible features.

Peter Kilkus of The Berryessa News has been watching the Lake Berryessa resort redevelopment effort. He called Sun Communities a “fantastic” company that has resources and wants to tap into the international Napa Valley marketplace.

“They know what they’re doing,” said Kilkus, who lives at Berryessa Highlands. “I think their president is dedicated to making this something very special among his properties.”

Response on the Berryessa News website to the proposals is about 90% positive, he said.

But work must be done before resort renovations go forward, including environmental studies and site investigations. The county and Sun Communities must complete a concessions agreement. County officials estimated all of this could take two years.

Kilkus repeated his frustration that things aren’t moving more quickly, saying that various studies have already been done on the resorts. Still, he said, he can accept waiting until 2024 for this Lake Berryessa vision.

Or, as he put it on The Lake Berryessa news website, "I guess I can wait until 2024 for my first margarita at the Steele Canyon Resort restaurant and bar overlooking beautiful Lake Berryessa."

Along the way, there should be Lake Berryessa community meetings. County Concessions Manager Leigh Sears said Sun Communities is more than willing to meet with residents and find out what their needs are and what they are seeking.

One item to be worked out is the concession fees that Sun Communities would pay to the county. A revitalized Lake Berryessa would mean increased county expenses for such things as law enforcement. County officials have previously stated they want the venture to at least break even for county coffers.

Meanwhile, the county will try to find someone to redevelop and operate a fourth resort — the now-vacant Berryessa Point.

The county tasked Ragatz Realty to identify eligible bidders. A county report said, "expressions of developer/operator interest" have been received.

Lake Berryessa reservoir in eastern Napa County has seven resort sites on federal land overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The agency a decade ago razed five of the resorts so they could be redeveloped from scratch.

But the Bureau of Reclamation’s search for concessionaires stalled. Napa County after three years of negotiations with the Bureau in 2020 agreed to oversee the redevelopment efforts at Steele Canyon, Spanish Flat and Monticello Shores resorts. Now Berryessa Point is added to the list.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved having the county enter into exclusive negotiations with Sun Lake Berryessa LLC (Sun Communities) to conduct various studies and for a long-term development and operational agreement.

It also approved taking over management for the Berryessa Point site from the Bureau of Reclamation and to look for concessionaires.

“It’s exciting to see what could happen at Lake Berryessa for the benefit of the residents and everyone else,” county Board of Supervisors Chairperson Alfredo Pedroza said. “This started with some vision. Folks were questioning whether it could become reality. And we’re one step closer.”

Human rights activists urged international governments, sponsors and athletes on Tuesday to boycott what they called China's "genocide games" as Greek officials handed over the Olympic flame to 2022 Beijing Winter Games organizers. Activist groups, which also disrupted the flame lighting ceremony in southern Greece on Monday, accused the International Olympic Committee of granting legitimacy to rights abuses in China by allowing the Winter Games to go ahead in Beijing.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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