LAKE DON PEDRO -- Bob and Susie Lynar are retired, and their adult children left home long ago. So the Lynars live alone in Jamestown except when the weather turns warm and the fish start biting.
"In the summer, we have a lot of visitors," said Bob Lynar at the couple's home away from home, one of 257 private houseboats at Don Pedro Reservoir, 40 miles east of Modesto. Susie Lynar says they have two children, two grandchildren "and lots of 'adopted' kids because they like to come here."
About a half-million people, many from the Modesto area, like to come here every year to camp, fish, ski, wakeboard and observe wildlife along the lake's 160 miles of shoreline. Many of those with second homes at the lake say they're getting soaked by a proposed fee hike that could dampen the lake's reputation as an affordable luxury.
"I'm just irate," said Alan Martin, whose parents started a family tradition at the lake in 1969. "I will be selling my boat" if rates continue to skyrocket, he said.
The decision could come Friday morning.
Trying to recoup costs
Forever Resorts, an Arizona company operating the reservoir's two marinas at Moccasin Point and Fleming Meadows, wants to recoup $2 million spent on improvements and bring mooring rates in line with competition at other California reservoirs. Sensitive to economic duress suffered by many, the governing Don Pedro Recreation Agency has not raised mooring fees in four years.
The marinas "have been very patient," Forever Resorts Regional Vice President Tim Colvin wrote in a letter to the agency. "We can no longer subsidize the moorage payments for the private boat owner."
Some owners say they might understand a reasonable bump. But the marinas want rates to go up from 72 percent to 85 percent over three years, depending on slip size or buoy option.
"This is corporate greed at its finest," said Wolfgang Tertel in one of several e-mails from upset houseboat owners.
"The objective is not how to keep recreational opportunities affordable, but rather, 'How much revenue can we squeeze from our captive boaters?' " Tertel added.
Among the owners' objections:
The marinas reportedly sprung the proposal with little warning. Many owners said notice came with a Don Pedro Recreation Agency agenda posted three days before its Oct. 12 meeting.
The marinas calculated comparison rates using square footage an apparently unique method, as others use boat length or width. "Nobody does it that way," Bob Lynar said.
The amount of the jump: "The massive increase is hard to comprehend," wrote Lois Rodden and Richard Henderson, who plotted tables of competitors' prices and claim that the marinas' analysis is flawed.
The marinas have not described attempts to reduce expenses, say owners, many of whom run businesses and are familiar with containing costs. "Everyone else is reducing expenses and they just want to increase revenue to balance," said tax attorney Rich Calone.
The marinas don't provide many services offered at pricier resorts, such as wireless Internet or a marina breakwater.
The owners have few options. Houseboats are much larger than other craft, requiring permits and special road escorts to move, at a cost of several thousand dollars. "It's not like we can decide to go to another restaurant if we don't like the service," Bob Lynar said.
"Forever Resorts is under the impression that all houseboaters must be multimillionaires," wrote Marcia Boer of Modesto. "We work hard and long to be able to afford our recreation, and we choose to spend our recreation dollars at our local jewel in our foothills.
"If 'Forever Extorts' cannot survive at Lake Don Pedro, they should cancel their contract and let someone take over who can," she added.
Although they didn't get much notice, owners rallied a small army to protest last month and persuaded the agency's three-man Board of Control to put off a decision until Friday. That panel is composed of elected representatives from the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, which own the lake, and an appointed employee of San Francisco, which helped build the reservoir for an interest in water storage.
"We decided to postpone it so all could give more time, consideration and soul-searching," said Michael Frantz, TID board chairman.
MID Director Larry Byrd said he sympathizes with owners' concerns, while Frantz said a smaller increase might be a good compromise.
Although other lakes don't compute rates on square footage, almost none offer berths for boats wider than 20 feet, as Don Pedro does, Frantz said. Forever Resorts compared rates against those charged by marinas at New Melones, McClure, Camanche, Shasta, Berryessa and other lakes.
Bob Lynar, a retired airline manager whose parents came to Don Pedro in 1979, said the Board of Control members are less interested in recreation and more in the reservoir's hydropower and irrigation resources.
"We know we're spoiled," Susie Lynar said. "It's always been a family activity. We don't want to let go of that, but we feel we're being forced out."
Said Frantz: "It is important to us that Lake Don Pedro stay affordable. It's always been accessible to the community and we wish to see it stay that way."
The Don Pedro Recreation Agency meets at 10 a.m. Friday in the agency's visitor center, 31 Bonds Flat Road,La Grange.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.