Local state park in danger of closure | TheUnion.com

Local state park in danger of closure

Matthew Renda
Staff Writer

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is in trouble.

While South Yuba River State Park was officially removed in early February from the 70-park closure list formulated by the California State Parks Department in 2011, the fate of Malakoff Diggins still hangs in the balance.

“Right now, it doesn’t look too good,” said Tom Stark, president of the Malakoff Diggins Park Association – the organization that has been tasked with raising funds to rescue the park.

Marilyn Linkem, the newly anointed Sierra District Superintendent for the parks department, said there is hope the park association can raise enough funds to keep the park open on a partial or seasonal basis.

Linkem said members of her staff are currently formulating a cost analysis that explores different expenditure structures relating to different scenarios that range from just keeping open the campgrounds (which generate revenue) to continuing operations on a full-time basis.

“Let’s take a number, say $50,000, and we’ll take a look at what is possible to do with that amount,” Linkem said. “Keeping the park open on a full-time basis appears cost prohibitive.”

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Stark said he needs concrete numbers before he can engineer a community-wide fundraising effort.

“It’s not fair to solicit donations from the community until we have some sort of fundraising goal in mind,” Stark said.

In the meantime, Stark encouraged members of the public to write letters to Sacramento urging officials to find creative methods to salvage the historic park from being shuttered.

Supervisor Hank Weston, who represents the district where Malakoff is situated, recently proposed a plan where energy costs at the park are offset by solar installations. Linkem said such a plan is welcome, but the feasibility of placing solar panels in the heavily wooded area needs to be further explored.

Furthermore, if trees need to be cut in order to facilitate greater sunlight capture a California Environmental Quality Act would need to be enacted and the process could take a while. Thus, solar panels are not a viable option in terms of keeping the parks open this July, she said.

South Yuba River Citizens League Executive Director Caleb Dardick said he understands that the solar installation plan would take time, but wants a commitment from state park leaders to go forward with the plan.

“We’re not surprised it will not result in a solution by July, but we are pleased the park is in caretaker status so those precious resources are protected until we can find a long-term solution,” he said.

Stark his organization will willingly collaborate with SYRCL to marshal and mobilize fundraising efforts once a number is solidified.

Dardick said his organization remains committed to salvaging the park.

“Malakoff Diggins State Park provides an invaluable, living history of the Gold Rush era and its lasting impacts on the Yuba River, and we are determined that it remain open,” Dardick said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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