Steele Canyon Recreation Area: The Berryessa Highlands Resort

Hello friends and neighbors,

My name is Peter Kilkus and I’m the publisher of the Lake Berryessa News and President of the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce. My personal goal is to see Lake Berryessa return to its position as the premier family recreation destination of Northern California. The best path to that goal is to have Napa County take over management of the Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas (previously known as “resorts”) through a Managing Partner Agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation. The process leading to that goal has been ongoing for 18 months and is reaching a milestone with the presentation of the consultant’s report to the Napa supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, August 1.

Based on comments I’ve read on my Lake Berryessa News Facebook page and on Nextdoor Berryessa, many folks are not clear about what happened at the lake over the last 20 years, especially if they only moved up here after 2009 when Steele Park Resort was finally demolished by the Bureau of Reclamation along with four other resorts.

Steele Park Restaurant from side

I respectfully ask you to educate yourselves before stating your opinions about what you think the future should look like at Steele Canyon Recreation Area (Steele Park Resort). This will have a major impact on the Berryessa Highlands. Steele Park was a great amenity for those of us who lived here before 2009.

First read and watch “What Happened At Lake Berryessa? A Condensed Political History: 1958 - 2017”


To understand how the process started please read the lead story in last July’s Lake Berryessa News at:

To understand where we stand now please read the lead story in last month’s Lake Berryessa News at:

The latest take on the issues is also available at:    

Steele Park Restaurant

Berryessa Highlands residents have some legitimate concerns which can most readily be addressed if the County manages the Steele Canyon concession operator rather than Reclamation - even Reclamation supports this concept.

The practical implications for the Berryessa Highlands, for example, of the rebirth of the Lake Berryessa as premier recreation destination are profound. How about a thriving Corners bar, restaurant, store? How about a fully functioning Steele Canyon marina with gas and a couple of hundred boat slips - and a good restaurant with a dynamite view - within 5 minutes of your home? How about at least one functioning gas station? Steele Park had 50 full-time employees. How about 600 new local jobs around the lake? That was a Pensus planning estimate. How about increasing property values to homeowners?

Steele Park Marina

We will have more time to address the needs of Highlands residents in the future, including a community meeting, after we see the consultants’ report. But I want to address some of the concerns that have been expressed now.

Napa Berryessa Resort Improvement District DOES NOT PAY for Steele Canyon.

Some people continue to spread and believe the false rumor that Berryessa Highlands residents somehow pay part of their property tax to support Steele Canyon. This is simply not true, nor has it ever been true. The term “resort improvement district” was a term applied to a California law that created the ability for certain developments to create bond issues to create water and sewer treatment systems in rural areas like the Highlands. No money ever was used for Steele Park Resort. No money ever will be used for Steele Canyon Recreation Area. The original bonds were paid off decades ago. The money being paid now by Highlands residents is for the new water and sewer system upgrades mandated by the state. The state had imposed a building moratorium in the Highlands until the new system was operational.

But Steele Park Resort did help pay for the water and sewer bills of the Berryessa Highlands residents. Steele Park paid for 30% of the cost of the system. If a resort were developed at Steele Canyon, it would be required to used NBRID services and possibly contribute to lowering the bill for Highlands users.

No Indian Casino Here

Although many local residents would like to see an Indian casino somewhere around the lake, that will never happen. There is only one property up by Putah Creek Recreation Area that is owned by a Native American tribe. Napa County would strongly oppose any effort to create a casino anywhere in Napa County. My April Fool’s story about the possible floating Indian casino spread like wildfire. When I told everyone who wasn’t smart enough to get the joke that it was a joke, there was a lot of disappointment. 

Berryessa Highlands User Discounts for Steele Canyon Use

This has been an issue for many decades. Highlands residents believe they should have a special locals’ user discount - especially for simple use like walking dogs. Most of us support the concept. If Napa County manages the new contracts there will be significant incentive for them to treat their own constituents well. We can push for local discounts.

Residents never had to pay an entry fee at Steele Park when they went to use the restaurant and bar. The Boathouse Restaurant was a local meeting place for Highlands neighbors, especially if they didn’t want to drive all the way to the Corners for a drink and some social activity. Those who have lived here in the Highlands when the Corners was open, remember how much fun it was to here a good band and have some fun. Unfortunately, three different owners tried to make a go of it during the last ten years - and failed. They could not survive without a fully operational Steele Park Resort.

By law, the concessions can only charge an entry fee for services provided (day use picnics, boat launching, camping). Anyone who only wants to drop in to check out a resort’s facilities can do it for free, although they would need to get a pass at the gate.

Traffic and Trash

This has been an issue for decades also. With the County managing the resort concessions they can require payment for services such as the Sheriff patrols. They could also require the concession owners to clean the trash on the roads after a busy weekend. Since the roads belong to the county, the county can make road improvements to alleviate traffic issues for Highlands residents.

Support Napa County Management for Berryessa Resorts

The Lake Berryessa News and Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce strongly support Napa County management of the lake recreation areas (“resorts”). If this management agreement is not approved, I believe it will mark the end of any chance for a revitalization of the lake community, to the detriment of the Berryessa Highlands especially.                       © Peter Kilkus 2018