Residents desperate to reclaim their beloved lake
■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
For nearly 40 years, the main attraction for residents of Country Lake Mobile Home Community has been the 7-acre lake spanning across the northeast corner of the park since the community’s genesis. Today, the lake is close to becoming an old memory.
About two years ago, the well that supplies the man-made lake started to deteriorate due to age and lack of maintenance, and as a result, the lake became noticeably drier as time went on. Just about eight months ago, the well was completely shut off altogether, and the former park management refused to pay for repairs. What was once the 20-foot-deep crown jewel of the park has now been reduced to an unsightly puddle of swamp water, and the residents are not happy about it.
Jim Snodgrass, 68, resident of 10 years and a director of the park’s Homeowners Residents Committee, has taken the lake situation into his own hands. Since the park came under new management about six months ago, accommodations have since been made to repair the well pipelines, and it is currently pumping water into the lake once again. The only catch is that the lake isn’t expected to fully refill for an estimated six months to a year.
“The lake used to attract so many people here,” said Snodgrass. “If the lake was back to its beauty, then people would come live here again.”
In the past couple of years, Snodgrass has noticed that more people have been moving out of the park of approximately 380 residents, than into it. “Nobody even goes [to the lake] anymore. It’s like a desert.”
Because the park is in the jurisdiction of Riverside County, he has contacted Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office, who told him “they were trying,” but also disclosed that the repairs may not be within their budget.
Jeff Comerchero, Washington’s chief of staff, told The Valley Chronicle in an email, “no one in our office is aware of the issue. I’ll see what I can find out.”
The beloved Country Lake used to serve as the gathering spot for residents of the mobile home park, where they would host events and parties, and many people would partake in daily activities like fishing and exercising around its perimeter. Because of its former ambiance, newlyweds would often visit the lake to take wedding photos, and families of the residents would visit often and have picnics. Today, the lake is almost vacant, aside from the occasional walkers who circle the entire park anyway.
“We just want help filling it, and we will maintain it,” pleaded Snodgrass’ wife, Chris.
In September, a brush fire broke out right behind the park’s property line. CalFire responded shortly afterward with an emergency response helicopter, and were left to utilize their nearby resources, which primarily consisted of the water from Country Lake. After several trips back and forth, the chopper began to scoop mud from out of the lake, because the water level was so low.
“If there’s another fire, I’m just concerned that CalFire is going to take water wherever they can get it. And if there’s no water [in the lake], that’s concerning,” said Chris.
Jim Snodgrass retired to Country Lake around 10 years ago. Previously an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Snodgrass made a living running an automobile detail business for 15 years.
Since moving to Country Lake, Snodgrass’ favorite pastime was cruising up to the lake in his golf cart and casting a line out with his Border Collie-Labrador mix. The residents even used to donate money to stock the lake with fish including bass, bluegill, trout, catfish, and others. Because the lake has dried so drastically, the fishing he enjoyed has been taken away from him and many other avid fishing enthusiasts at the park. Dozens of flocks of ducks have retreated elsewhere as a result.
“We just want to get our lake back to what it was,” said Snodgrass. “These people here donate so much of their time to get rid of the junk here – the dead brush, and the old wood – because we still have hope. And that’s all we’ve got left to hang onto right now, is hope.”
While the Snodgrasses have made some headway since the lake initially went dry, they are asking for assistance from outside entities, not just for themselves, but for the entire 55+ community as a whole.
“People spend the end of their lives in this park,” said Snodgrass. “And the only enjoyment they’ve got is that lake. That’s all they have left. We want that serene, beautiful lake back.”