Many California State Parks Work Deals to Avoid Closure
It's been a scramble for many communities trying to keep their landmarks, history and camping spots open to the public. After many fundraisers and donations visitors can still find most doors open. For some, including a few campgrounds, private groups will take over the business for now, the San Jose Mercury-Register reported.
In fact, deals or negotiations are in the works to keep open all but 15 of the 70 state parks that were on the original closure list. The closing date was set for July 1.
In Chico, supporters of Bidwell Mansion are close to plans to donate $80,000 to keep the mansion partially open over the next year. The Bidwell Mansion Community Project raised $138,000 with events including a walk/run, silent film festival and many other smaller events. Fundraising continues for future years.
The community group submitted documents April 1 and the state returned them June 15. Now the state is waiting for the North Valley Community Foundation to send in signatures, explained Michael Fehling, district superintendent for California State Parks.
The park will remain open on weekends and for school programs, and the community group said they will send the money in quarterly installments. This agreement is for one year.
Similar donor agreements were made for other parks:
- Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park — The oldest Chinese temple in California was built in 1874 and became a state park in 1956. The Weaverville Joss Association existed before the budget cutbacks, and signed a donor agreement through 2015. The park will remain open two days a week plus school programs, Fehling said, and the association will donate $47,000 a year.
- Shasta State Historic Park — Six miles west of Redding on Highway 299, the remains of brick buildings show the history of Shasta City as a mining area. The county courthouse of 1861 has been restored. The Shasta Historical Society will donate $20,000 a year through 2015 to keep the site open two days a week plus school programs. The agreement is pending the signature of Ruth Coleman, director of state parks.
- William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park — Located on the Sacramento River in Red Bluff, the park includes an adobe home, carriage shed and blacksmith shop from the 1840s. Celebrations are held, including a pioneer day in August, horseshoe contest and pioneer Christmas party. The donor agreement is pending for the Ide Adobe Interpretive Association to give $36,000 a year. Volunteers already help at the visitor's center on weekends. Most of the funds will help the Environmental Living Program, where high school students and fourth graders dress in period costumes and learn California history.
- Anderson Marsh State Historic Park — A donor agreement with the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association is pending the state parks director's signature. The community group has pledged $20,000 for annual expenses for the ranch house and interpretive barn near hiking trails on Highway 53 near Clear Lake.
In some cases, private companies stepped forward asking to take over operation of state parks, such as campgrounds. These agreements are complicated, Fehling said, because they require maintenance and oversight by the state to ensure the area is maintained well.
- Woodson Bridge — The campground is now closed. Beginning in late July American Land and Leisure will operate the park, as well as Brannan Island in the Delta and a campground at Turlock Lake. Reservations may be made through Reserve America, an online booking website which has been used to book Woodson Bridge in previous years. Camping fees will remain at $25 a night, at least for the first year, perhaps increase in 2014 and 2015, Fehling said.
- Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area — The park is open and has been operated by the city of Colusa since last fall, Fehling said. The city will repair trails and collect fees for the 14 campsites. The park also has a day use area. The facility is important to the city, which has plans for a new boat ramp nearby.
- Castle Crags State Park — Near Castella and Mount Shasta, the campground may remain closed for most of the summer. Fehling said two companies submitted proposals to run the campground — Innovations Housing Inc. and American Land and Leisure. American Land and Leisure runs many federal parks in the Western United States, he said. Having two proposals to consider is taking more time, he explained.