‘Gold Country’ Campground Fate Up in Air
Placer County Director of Parks John Ramirez floated the idea of restricting Bear River Campground in northern California to day use only during the Weimar-Applegate-Colfax Municipal Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday (Feb. 18).
However, the idea sank like a stone, according to the Colfax (Calif.) Record.
Without entirely rejecting the idea, several council members, public officials and citizens spoke out against the proposal.
Citing budget cutbacks and law enforcement problems with unruly campers as the main reasons for eliminating overnight camping at the popular recreation area, Ramirez suggested most of the 21 individual campsites – fire rings and tables – be removed to make the park more amenable to fishing, gold panning and hiking.
Under his preliminary proposal, the two group campsites would remain available for overnight camping.
The parks director conceded the county would lose about $20,000 year in camping fees, but he predicted the cost of law enforcement and cleanup would exceed the revenue.
Ramirez stated his purpose in appearing before the council was to gain support for the idea. With the council’s support, Ramirez would be able to seek formal approval from the Placer County Board of Supervisors for formal approval.
If approved, the camping privileges policies would go into effect April 1, he said.
Council member Lynn Tausch, who expressed her opposition to the proposal, said camping at the park is a long-time tradition for many local residents.
Colfax Fire Chief Chris Paulus objected on public safety grounds.
While conceding the campground does draw a rowdy crowd sometimes, preventing troublemakers from reveling at the Bear River site would simply move them to places like Yankee Jims campground where there was a higher fire danger and less law enforcement availability.
Ramirez pointed out that nighttime sheriff’s patrols have been cut back. He argued that without regular patrols, crime would escalate and law enforcement response costs would escalate.
“We don’t have the resources we used to have,” he explained.
Lt. John Arrabit, commander of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Gold Run station, added that he grew up in the area and camped at the site when he was a teenager.
Arrabit offered to include occasional nighttime CHP patrols of the campground to assist peacekeeping efforts.
After considerable discussion, the council members decided Ramirez had not provided a sufficient cost-benefit analysis of the proposed closure. They declined to endorse the proposal.
They did, however, invite Ramirez to return with a more detailed analysis of the benefits and implications of closing the campground for overnight use. They also asked for more input from public safety and conservation groups.
Additionally, the panel requested more alternatives to managing the campground both cost-effectively and safely while still meeting the limited recreational opportunities available to local residents.