Since July 1, local donations to the Olmsted Park Fund have kept propane tanks filled and generators running full tilt three days a week at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.
So far, two propane deliveries totaling $657, or 682 gallons, have been purchased for the off-the-grid state park because of Olmsted Park Fund donations.
Locals continue to make donations to the fund largely through buckets placed at Briar Patch Co-op and Empire Mine State Park. Bikram Yoga of Grass Valley and New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee have also made donations.
These donations delivered by Executive Director Alden Olmsted kept the park’s museum humming Friday, Saturday and Sunday up until Sept. 30 when the park closed for the season.
“Without that support, we wouldn’t be able to have any power to the museum,” said Don Schmidt, supervising ranger for Sierra Gold Sector Parks.
Malakoff Diggins is one of three state parks within western Nevada County operating with reduced staff and shoestring budgets.
“Alden’s contribution has been huge. … We’d be in a big hole without him,” Schmidt said.
Olmsted is the son of the late naturalist John D. Olmsted, father of the local wheelchair accessible Independence Trail who helped set aside what is now South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport.
More than a year ago, when he first learned 70 state parks were slated for closure, Alden Olmsted spearheaded a grassroots fundraising campaign to save state parks with the idea that every California resident donate just $1.
Besides his contribution to Malakoff, Olmsted donated $1,000 to the South Yuba River Citizens League to keep the port-a-potties clean at Purdon Crossing.
Community talks with the South Yuba River Citizens League and other stakeholders are ongoing to find a long-term sustainable solution for generating power at the park.
Even if funding for a power source is found, such as a costly solar array, the challenge is how to maintain such a system with a limited budget, said Schmidt.
“Right now we’re operating with one maintenance person for all three parks,” Schmidt said.
Now in the offseason, the museum and cabins at Malakoff are closed until May.
Humbug Trail is closed until further notice from the waterfall down because of a collapsed wooden footbridge.
A couple of small sections of the Rim Trail are closed due to a landslide.
Both trails won’t re-open until funding is found, Schmidt said.
Ironically, Olmsted donated money for fuel at Malakoff Diggins on the day 70 targeted state parks were initially scheduled for closure. These parks were saved from the chopping block when last minute funding and partnership agreements were put into place.
On July 20, an investigation revealed the Department of Parks and Recreation had approximately $50 million in “surplus” funds for the past 12 years.
Despite the found money, the future of many state parks remains uncertain and nonprofit groups like the Olmsted Park Fund dependent on public donations and volunteerism offer hope for keeping public lands accessible.
“It’s so encouraging to me, and I know it would be to my dad, that the people are providing part of the solution. They don’t seem content to give up the responsibility of park stewardship back to the politicos,” said Olmsted.
“As long as the buckets keep filling up, we’ll gladly continue to pay the propane bill at Malakoff and wherever else we can stretch our funds.”
“Without that support, we wouldn’t be able to have any power to the museum.”
— Don Schmidt,
supervising ranger for Sierra Gold Sector Parks