Fifty years ago, Plumas County celebrated the grand opening of Plumas-Eureka State Park. A half-century later, we are in danger of losing our county’s only state park. PESP is on the list of parks the state plans to close by July 2012.
Since the list was announced May 13, the state’s plans have hit a few snags. For starters, the feds say it may be illegal for the state to close certain parks. The National Park Service says 16 California parks — PESP is not one — receive grants through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. By grant contract, the state is supposed to keep the parks in public use for perpetuity.
The California Coastal Commission has also weighed in, pointing out that some of the proposed closures are at state beaches, and the state cannot legally curtail public access. Whether a nominal open status — gates are open but there are no services — will fly is unclear.
One possible recourse to the closures is to turn to public-private partnerships. In a press release accompanying the closure list, Ruth Coleman, director of state parks, said, “With this announcement, we can begin to seek additional partnership agreements to keep open as many parks as possible. We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners — cities, counties and nonprofits — to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template.”
Some legislators, with the backing of the California State Park Foundation, have taken her at her word and proposed legislation to encourage such partnerships. AB 42 (Huffman) would allow the state to enter into partnerships with nonprofit organizations to help operate park units that might otherwise be closed. This bill passed the Assembly unanimously and now moves on to the Senate.
SB 580 (Wolk) would establish a clear and strong process to protect California’s state park system against development proposals that are inconsistent with state parks, and ensures that efforts to use state parks for non-park purposes result in no net loss of park lands for Californians. SB 580 passed out of the Senate on June 1 and will continue to the Assembly.
In the case of Plumas-Eureka, it seems that a collaborative group of local entities could keep the park operational. For interpretation, the Plumas-Eureka State Park Association could keep up its good work, aided by the Plumas County Museum. The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, which is already active in the Lake Basin Recreation Area in the adjoining Plumas National Forest, could handle trail maintenance. The Forest Service or one of its existing concessionaires could operate the campground. The Eastern Plumas Chamber of Commerce and the Graeagle-Plumas Alliance could bring their resources to the table, too.
We can keep our state park alive. All the pieces are there. We just need someone to lead the charge. We think county supervisor Jon Kennedy is the ideal person to bring the parties together and forge a plan. We call on him to do so. Keeping Plumas-Eureka open is one of the most important things he can do for the economy of his district. And he needs to start now if we are to have a plan in place for next summer.
Although we can’t control a lot of what Sacramento inflicts on us, in this case we can steer our own destiny. Let’s not let our park become a thing of the past.