Bass Lake, once a source of irrigation water for El Dorado Hills lawns, is scheduled to become a reservoir of learning opportunities for children.
The Rescue Union School District proposes to purchase the 90-acre lake, plus 58 acres of surrounding land, from the El Dorado Irrigation District for $300,000. The plan is to eventually develop approximately 20 acres as a K-8 school focusing on environmental science and technology, said Sid Albaugh, the district’s chief business and operations official. The remainder is envisioned as parkland that the district would share with the El Dorado Hills Community Services District.
The property, off Bass Lake Road and south of Green Valley Road in El Dorado Hills, already includes Sellwood Field, baseball and soccer fields used by the El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park community services districts and the Rescue school district under a lease agreement with the irrigation district. It is adjacent to county-owned property long planned for a regional park.
The Rescue district has spent a decade looking for a school site to serve El Dorado Hills’ Serrano neighborhood, but property in the area is “really expensive,” Albaugh said.
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In late 2009, El Dorado Irrigation District directors declared the 148-acre Bass Lake site surplus property. Under state law, the district was required to make a written offer to sell the property to other government entities in the area, said Mary Lynn Carlton, communications director for the irrigation district. The county of El Dorado and the school district expressed interest, and the Rescue district came through with an offer. Carlton said the $300,000 offer, along with the purchase agreement, will be presented to the irrigation district board for approval June 9.
The opportunity to buy land at a relatively affordable price was a definite selling point for the Bass Lake site, but so were its educational resources.
“An environmental studies program would be amazing there,” Albaugh said.
The district sends students to outdoor education programs in areas such as Coloma and Sonora at considerable cost each year, he said. Bass Lake, with its waterfowl and other wildlife, offers an ideal venue for environmental studies and programs that Rescue might be able to offer students from other communities as well, he said.
Carlton said the lake is fed by natural springs – the irrigation district hasn’t supplemented water in Bass Lake for five years – and is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 10 feet and little fluctuation in water level.
The district had stored water in the lake to supplement recycled water supplies used for landscape irrigation in much of El Dorado Hills. But Carlton said the Bass Lake water, with its high mineral content, stained sidewalks and driveways.
The lake is home to largemouth bass and attracts large numbers of Canada geese, she said, and the surrounding land is prime for nature studies.
Not included in the sale are about 30 acres that the irrigation district will retain for an equipment storage and maintenance yard.
The Rescue district doesn’t plan to develop the school site for several years. Although district enrollment is expected to increase with new housing construction, Albaugh said growth-related initiatives that may go before El Dorado County voters in November could affect projections.
“We’re waiting to see what type of development occurs in the area,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what gets approved.”
The district also has several hurdles to cross as it pursues purchase of the property. It must complete environmental studies to make sure nothing on the property would render it unsuitable for a school. In addition, the site must be approved by the state Department of Education, Albaugh said. Some of the environmental studies and state approvals are required before the close of escrow.
Nevertheless, Albaugh said, the decision to purchase the property is an exciting step forward for the Rescue district.
“The opportunity to create something that benefits not only our district, but our entire community for generations is very humbling,” he said. “It’s something that we take very seriously.”