Delayed start to cleanup means state park will be closed all summer

Delaine Fragnoli
Managing Editor

The campground and historic area at Plumas-Eureka State Park (PESP) will be closed for all of the summer season because late and heavy snows have delayed the start of the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned cleanup in the park. At this time it is unclear when the facilities will reopen.

Limited areas of the park, including Eureka Lake and the Eureka Peak trails, Madora Lake, Grass Lake and the Grass Lake/Smith Lake trailhead, and the Jamison Creek Canyon area, will continue to be open to the public.

The closure has forced the Plumas-Eureka State Park Association to cancel its hugely popular Gold Discovery Days celebration. The group still plans to hold its annual pancake breakfast Sunday, July 17, in collaboration with the Portola Rotary Club at the fire hall in Graeagle, 8 – 11 a.m. Historic park memorabilia will be available from the museum store, and there will be drawings and prizes as usual. Live musical entertainment will round out the morning.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) announced Jan. 25 that PESP would be partially closed this summer for a hazardous materials cleanup.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was set to lead the cleanup of toxic materials — primarily arsenic, lead and mercury — left over from the days when the site was a working gold mine.

The work was scheduled to begin this spring as soon as weather conditions allowed and to proceed through the fall. Officials had hoped that if the cleanup finished ahead of schedule, they could reopen portions of the park.

The campground was scheduled to be treated first, so that camping could resume. But that possibility is now very unlikely.

ReserveAmerica will contact campers with reservations and offer to transfer those reservations to another date or anther park, pending availability. If reservations cannot be transferred, customers will receive a full refund.

Suzi Brakken of the Plumas County Visitors Bureau said her staff stands ready to help displaced campers find suitable alternatives in Eastern Plumas, a task made more difficult because the Plumas National Forest plans to close two of the three campgrounds at Lake Davis for water system upgrades this summer. A local contractor will install new pipes at Grasshopper Flat and Grizzly campgrounds, which are on the same system. The project uses American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

Judy Schaber, a recreation officer for the Plumas forest, said other sites at Lake Davis would be open this summer: “Lightning Tree Campground will be open, and we have about 40 overflow campsites with limited amenities for a reduced price.”

In addition to the displaced campers, Brakken worries about the larger impact on the tourism economy. The state park attracts about 50,000 visitors a year.

Transient occupancy tax is collected at the Forest Service campgrounds but not at the state park campground, according to Plumas County Tax Collector staff.

The larger impact will be on the restaurants, retail shops, gas stations and grocery stores in the area, said Brakken.


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