It was once the place to be on Big Bear Lake. Gray’s Landing on the North Shore was a favorite place for fishing and boating in the 1920s. In the 1940s and ’50s it became a celebrity haven when it was owned by the king of the cowboys, Roy Rogers.
There was even a visit in 1949 by movie star Humphrey Bogart, who was filming “Knock on Any Door” in Big Bear at the time. The Bogey sighting was reported in an article written by Noel Blanc for The Grizzly Weekender in 2006.
Today Gray’s Landing is a ghost of its former self. Closed since 2002 after it was purchased by Richard Maraziti, Gray’s Landing has never reopened. During the last eight years, a single gray building stands as a silent reminder of its storied past.
The floor inside the building is reportedly covered with debris and trash. The remains of a dock litter the landscape. Even the chain-link fence surrounding Gray’s Landing is showing signs of decline. While the gate is secured by lock and chain, there is a gaping hole in the fence near the building. There are no posted warning signs on the property.
Scott Heule, general manager of the Big Bear Municipal Water District, said he has received complaints about the blight. But the district does not have jurisdiction above the high water line. That responsibility lies with San Bernardino County Code Enforcement, Heule said.
In 2007 the dock was crumbling into the water and trash littered the shore. That was something the MWD could control. “We fought long and hard to get the trash off the lake,” Heule said. “They moved (wood from the dock) to the grounds.”
By then Maraziti was no longer the owner. He sold Gray’s Landing in 2004 to his lawyer William Rathbone and eventually assigned the marina permit over to Rathbone as well. There was at least one attempt by Rathbone to reopen the marina in 2007, but that attempt was never realized. A search through 2007 county Planning Commission actions did not uncover any request for a conditional use permit for Gray’s Landing.
Rathbone, who lives in San Diego, was in court and unavailable for comment at press time. He is listed on the property tax roll as a co-owner of Gray’s Landing with his wife Constance.
According to county public information officer David Wert, the property owner has been cited more than once for lack of compliance. The first notice was sent in August 2008 and a court citation was issued one month later. When the property owner assured the county work was being done to correct the problem, the court case was dismissed.
“Two months later there was another complaint,” Wert said. “The county inspected the property in 2009 and issued a notice.”
When there was no response to that notice, the county inspected the property in March and July of this year before issuing an administrative citation. “The property owner was cited for a lack of maintenance and lack of the necessary approvals or permits,” Wert said. There is a $100 fine for each violation.
There still has been no response from Rathbone one month later. Fines could increase and the county could decide to clean up the property and send the Rathbones the bill. “It could eventually come to that or we could put a lien on the property to pay for the cleanup,” Wert said.
Rumors persist as to why the marina never reopened, but Heule remembers the county was a stumbling block. “We heard there needed to be a new conditional use permit issued because zoning had changed,” Heule said. The county adopted a revised Bear Valley Community Plan in 2007. Reports are the property is now zoned residential instead of commercial.
Today the fate of Gray’s Landing remains in limbo, its lone building standing near the lake’s edge covered in graffiti and crumbling slowly into the dust. “The county tries to work with the property owner to bring the case to resolution,” Wert said. “We want to get their attention and get them to comply.”
As for the Gray’s Landing owners, Wert said “We’re after them.”
Contact reporter Kathy Portie at 909-866-3456, ext. 135, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.