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Fishing Club Makes Offer to Save Campground

August 31, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Vermilion Fishing Club recently sent another proposal to Dynegy Inc. to buy the lake-front campground in central Illinois the club has been leasing for more than 50 years.

But the club’s board members don’t hold out a lot of hope that the Houston-based power company will sell the land to the club, which has been told by Dynegy to vacate, by Oct. 1, the campground near the mothballed Vermilion Power Plant, The News-Gazette reported.

Homer Garrison, board member of the club, said the group’s attorney sent by registered mail at the end of last week a proposal to Dynegy officials asking for the opportunity to negotiate a sale of the campground, which borders a lake that was used in the operation of the power plant that was closed in the spring. Shortly after, Dynegy sent the club a notice that the campground had to be vacated by Oct. 1.

For more than 50 years, the club has maintained the campground with dues from its members and operated under a lease arrangement of the property that originated with Illinois Power, the former longtime owner of the power plant that was bought by Dynegy in 2001. The club has four staff members that maintain the grounds that include 264 permanent campsites adjacent to a 126-acre lake whose waters were used to cool generators at the nearby coal-fired Dynegy power plant. Club members live all over East Central Illinois, including Danville and Champaign-Urbana, and even out of state.

Earlier this summer, club board members and Dynegy officials came together for their first face-to-face meeting that was arranged by State Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, to discuss whether a new arrangement could be worked out even though the power plant is now closed and Dynegy has the property for sale.

That meeting resulted in Dynegy sending the club about 10 days later a new proposal for a lease arrangement with certain conditions attached.

Garrison said the club just would not be able to meet Dynegy’s conditions, which included hefty expenses to provide more security throughout the grounds and multiple insurance policies to cover any liability and other issues. And, Garrison said, Dynegy still wanted to retain the option of being able to terminate any agreement within 60 days.

“It’s a shame,” said Garrison, who explained that the club members are continuing to clear out their areas as Dynegy’s Oct. 1 deadline approaches.

Garrison said the club indicated in its recent request to negotiate a sale that it would like an immediate reply from Dynegy, but the club has heard nothing yet. Prior to its face-to-face meeting with Dynegy officials, the club had sent a letter to Dynegy asking if the two sides could discuss a sale of the campground, but the company never responded to that letter, according to Garrison.

Hays said that regardless what happens, his goal was to ensure that the two sides did meet personally to discuss the situation. He said he was disappointed that Dynegy had initiated on its own a meeting with the club members, many of whom have been camping there and maintaining the property for decades. Hays said he realizes that Dynegy’s proposal for a new lease arrangement is more than what the club could take on, and he hopes that maybe something can still be worked out.

If not, he said if any opportunity arises in the future for that property to be secured for recreational purposes for people in this area, he will do what he can to make that happen.

In the meantime, Garrison said the club officials have set a self-imposed earlier deadline, asking members to clear out by Sept. 19, because they fear that if some don’t adhere to the Oct. 1 deadline, Dynegy might lock them out of the premises and members won’t have access to their belongings.

Garrison said many of the members are taking their campers and scattering all over the region, finding new sites at other campgrounds, like Shelbyville or sites in Indiana.

He said it’s sad, because some have camped there for more than 30 years and now likely won’t every see each other again.

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