Buddy Billís And The Demise Of Lake Monroe Commerce

By Don Jordan

Oct. 20, 2009

It has been so long since I reported here that I need to bring you all up to date on Bill Moser's former bait shop, grocery and restaurant on Moffett Lane, south of Bloomington. Bill and Clarice closed their business after nearly 40 years serving the Moore's Creek area of Lake Monroe and the settlement of Sanders.

"There just wasn't any business. There was times when we'd sit there all day and maybe have one customer," said Moser after the closure at the end of July, 2009.

While some attributed Buddy Bill's closure to the current recession, the fact is that business had been going downhill for Moser and all other businesses associated with Lake Monroe for at least the last five years. The slowdown really hit when gas prices skyrocketed in 2007 and 2008. High gas prices that year hit boating and travel hard. Even visitors from Indianapolis didn't make as many trips to Monroe in 07, and out of state visitors were scarce.

More obvious to guys like Bill and I has been the decrease in anglers on the water at Monroe. The big reservoir has always been quiet on week days, but this year you could stand down at the Moore's Creek ramp and maybe see two boats launch all morning.

"There just aren't as many fishermen," said Rita Roper-Flynn, marina manager at the Lake Monroe Sailing Marina, in discussing the lake's commercial depression. "I don't know why, and they say they sell as many licenses, but they aren't fishing here."

On the other hand, there has been a burst of interest in sailing all over the country, and the Lake Monroe Sailing Marina was full up this past summer. A few bouy moorings were available, but the slips were rented. Some of that business came from the Fourwinds Marina which experienced a wind disaster last spring. An entire section of docks was affected, and the saling marina opened up its facilities to displaced Fourwinds boats.

Another clue that sailing is on the increase is the price of used sailboats. People are selling older boats for more than they paid for them, and Canadian dealers have been raiding the U.S. where prices for used boats are still low.

One lake oriented business revived this year. The Lake View Restaurant opened after a new owner changed the place a lot and began offering outside dinning. My mate Jo Padgett and I joined friends there for a beautiful Sunday morning breakfast last summer, and it is great to be able to soak in that view from the restaurant again.

Maybe the worst is over for commerce dedicated to serving Lake Monroe, but it has been a long, slow death so far. Buddy Bill has contracted his store to the Monroe Countian Jay Willis who will try to make it work again, so there is still one bait shop serving the lower reservoir. The only other bait shop in the county is The Fishin' Shedd on Ind. 446 north of the Monroe causeway.

What does Buddy Bill think would help?

"Why, that's easy. All they have to do is promote the lake again, like the used to. Nobody is out there trying to get people to come to Lake Monroe. You see the DNR having all kinds of things going on at these other reservoirs, but not at Lake Monroe. They got Paynetown (at Lake Monroe), and that's it. It seems like they actually try to drive people away with their policies," said Moser.

A prime example of one such policy is the closing of lake access at a "people's" boat ramp on Stipp Rd. The spot, located on a 90 degree curve at he north end of Moore's Creek, was called a "car topper" or canoe landing by the DNR after they talked the Monroe County Highway Dept. into installing a solid steel guar rail at the spot for safety reasons. It is impossible to back a small boat in there now, and you have to carry a boat a pretty long way to get it from the parking spots to the put-in. Older anglers who used that spot to launch their little jon boats are now effectively shut out at Monroe. No older person wants to launch his or her 14 foot jon boat amid the Queen Marys and 200 horsepower bass boats that one encounters at the lake's main launching ramps.

The highway department said the DNR pointed it out, and that they put of the guard rail for safety reasons, but as Buddy Bill points out, nobody has ever driven into the lake at that spot.

Finally, since the subject of The Fourwinds came up, here's the score on that place. The motel/hotel/conference center is dilapidated, the restaurant is expensive and not very good, and the entire complex looks bad. This is a prime example of what happens, long term, when public resources get turned over to private business interests for operation. They bleed them dry and get out when the facility declines.

That's why I call it "piratization" of our natural resources. And so it goes and goes and goes, at Lake Monroe.

Natural Signs Point To Bad Winter

If anything marks this year as remarkable, it has been the accelerated nature of our season advances. As Buddy Bill and I have reported on our radio show, everything has been at least two weeks ahead of schedule this year, and the trend is continuing in October.

The wooly worms around my place in northern Monroe County are all black. In wooly worm weather forecasting, this means winter is likely to be exceptionally cold. Bill split open some persimmon seeds at the start of October and found the image of a spoon.

"They was all spoons," said Bill of a quantiy of persimmons seeds he inspected. "Spoons means a lot of snow."

While I have heard some parts of the area are short on acorns and other nuts this year, there has been a bumper crop of hickory nuts around my house. The fox squirrels are unusually fat this fall. Lots of tree mast (nuts) is said to predict a severe winter, so maybe winter will be hit and miss this time around.

And, I have to tell you that just relying upon one or two natural predictors are not always reliable. For example, in the fall of 2008, there was a hornet nest about 40 feet up in a poplar tree near the house. That is a sign of heavy snow, but we had hardly any snow last winter. Bill's persimmon seeds were all over the board last year, showing spoons (snow) and knives (cold) and also forks (mild).

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©Copyright 2008. Donald Lee Jordan

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