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Supes playing hardball with state parks

Matthew Renda
Staff Writer

County officials are inching toward having two Nevada County parks removed from the state’s closure list.

The board of supervisors will vote on whether to approve a letter written by Supervisor Hank Weston to the state parks department that outlines various methods of raising enough funds to prevent South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Site from being shuttered.

Weston said the county will propose a plan calling for the implementation of a paid parking structure on Pleasant Valley Road in order to generate enough money to keep the South Yuba River State Park open.

However, for the state of California to implement the necessary changes, it will need the compliance of Nevada County and Weston intends to use that as leverage in the fight to keep the parks open, he said.

“This is a quid pro quo situation,” Weston said. “I basically told the state if you want us to help you, you need to take the parks off the closure list.”

California State Parks District Superintendent Matt Green said he was receptive to the plan.

“I believe this makes the running of the park more sustainable,” he said. “We needed to find some way to extend our fee base to pay for the high cost of staffing.”

Green said more than 450,000 people visited South Yuba State Park last calendar year.

The paid parking would be applied to both lots in proximity to Bridgeport and the north lot in the area would be expanded to include an additional 100 vehicles, Green said.

The small parking lot near the Highway 49 bridge is not being considered for paid parking, Green said.

“There’s just not an adequate footprint in the area to make it worthwhile,” Green said.

If the supervisors vote to approve a letter drafted by Weston, Green will take that to the executive branch of California State Parks.

“It may go all the way up to (State Parks Director) Ruth Coleman and she will make the final decision on whether to accept the proposal,” he said.

Nevada County resident Linda Chaplin said Friday she was averse to a plan that entailed paid parking, stating that it is the state’s responsibility to ensure free access to the Yuba River, which is a public resource.

Weston also proposed a way to rescue Malakoff Diggins Friday.

“I think it’s possible to get a coalition of local solar companies and have them come together and formulate a plan,” he said.

The plan would call for the installation of solar panels on some of the facilities at Malakoff Diggins. Park officials told Weston that the biggest expense is utility costs relating to the buildings at the park, he said.

Thus, Weston said a fundraising campaign to pay for the installation of solar panels could significantly reduce those costs, thereby making the case the park should say open.

“There are 40 campsites,” Weston said. “They have a lot of amenities and people will come to visit them.”

Green said he is concentrating solely on arriving at solutions for keeping South Yuba River State Park open before moving on to Malakoff.

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

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