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January 22, 2013
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Official: Two local parks still endangered

Two local parks that were once placed on the closure list are not necessarily safe despite recent discoveries of additional money in California Parks Department coffers, park officials said.

“Our two local parks are still on the closure list,” said Sierra District Supervisor Marilyn Linkem in a recent interview. “We still are planning service reductions at both parks because we cannot afford to have as many staff patrols.”

The South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins State Park were two of the 70 parks that were initially included on the closure list released by the state parks department in May 2011.

However, no closures are imminent, Linkem said, largely due to Assembly Bill 1478, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last October and mandates that none of the 278 state parks may be closed until at least 2014.

The two-year reprieve can allow organizations like the South Yuba River Citizens League to breathe a sigh of relief without relenting their mission to “protect the legacy and jewels for future generations,” said Caleb Dardick, SYRCL executive director.

When news of the scandal involving the parks department squirreling away $54 million for more than a decade broke, Dardick, Alden Olmsted and other local park advocates expressed outrage and demanded the money be used to be kept parks open.

Subsequent investigations revealed $34 million of the money hidden in an Off-Highway Vehicle fund was accidently under-reported by the department, but the $20 million hidden in the Recreation Fund was intentionally concealed.

The parks department has decided to make $10 million of that money available to match the many monetary donations private citizens, nonprofits and other entities dedicated to salvage the various parks.

The Malakoff Diggins Park Association garnered $22,000 and pledged it to keeping the park open on a limited basis, Linkem said. Malakoff will be kept open three days a week (Friday to Sunday) from May through September. The cabins will be available to rent seven days a week, but the campgrounds will remain closed from Monday through Thursday.

The South Yuba River State Park, which installed a paid parking program at its Bridgeport location last year to help increase revenue capture, will see service reductions, but has hired two new rangers.

“I am pleased that South Yuba River State Park will hire new rangers,” Dardick said. “That’s good news because the park is heavily used and it needs oversight.”

Parks department employees have installed isolated solar panels on select buildings at North Bloomfield, which still retains the look of an old mining town.

However, a more concerted effort, spearheaded by SYRCL, to install a large-scale solar project to defray the costs of running two diesel generators that provide power to the various buildings throughout the park, will require a California Environmental Quality Analysis, Linkem said. CEQA costs are considerable and park officials are attempting to tap funds from the $10 million recently uncovered to be able to fund the process.

Whether or not the pay-to-park strategy is providing South Yuba park with enough dollars to be viable is uncertain because all revenue collected through the entire parks are funneled to a revolving fund making it difficult to analyze financial health on a park-by-park basis, Linkem said.

Dardick said this system initially made sense when popular parks outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco were meant to fund less popular parks, but having the ability to identify the revenues and expenditures at each park would be beneficial to the current process.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.

“We still are planning service reductions at both parks because we cannot afford to have as many staff patrols.”
— Sierra District Supervisor Marilyn Linkem

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The Union Updated Jul 19, 2013 02:34PM Published Jan 24, 2013 12:09PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.