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Plumas County’s only state park, Plumas-Eureka State Park (PESP), is on the list of 70 parks to be closed for the next two fiscal years, California State Parks (CSP) announced Friday, May 13.
The PESP closure is unlikely to have much of an effect this summer because a scheduled hazardous materials cleanup meant most facilities would be closed anyway, said Matt Green, acting district superintendent for the park agency’s Sierra District.
Green said most of the parks on the closure list in his district would be open this summer season, but with reduced services.
Given state budget uncertainties, he said, “anything could happen” before the 2012-13 season.
The state announced in late January that PESP would be partially closed this summer for the cleanup, but announced last month that it would be closed all summer because late and heavy snows delayed the start of the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned work.
Although most trails in the park will remain accessible, the campground, museum and other selected sites will be closed for the cleanup.
The statewide closures, which will affect a quarter of the state’s parks, are necessary, said the agency, to achieve an $11 million reduction in 2011-12 and $22 million in 2012-13.
The cuts are a result of AB95, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in March.
In a press release, Ruth Coleman, director of state parks, said, “With this announcement, we can begin to seek additional partnership agreements to keep open as many parks as possible. We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners — cities, counties and nonprofits — to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template.”
John Sheehan, executive director of Plumas Corporation, sees such collaboration as a real possibility should PESP face a second summer of closure. “I think we can do something,” he said, before suggesting the Plumas National Forest or one of its existing concessionaires as potential partners.
“Getting the campground operating is key,” said Suzi Brakken, director of the Plumas County Visitors Bureau. “That’s a huge part.” The park’s Jamison Creek campground is among the best and most popular in the county, Brakken said. It traditionally books up for the whole summer season.
The park has a very active and committed support group, the Plumas-Eureka State Park Association, which could potentially keep some of the park’s interpretive programs afloat.
Although the county does not collect transient occupancy tax from the campground, the closure is sure to have some effect on the local tourism economy. The park attracts 50,000 visitors a year.
Area restaurants, retail shops, gas stations and grocery stores in the area will feel the impact, said Brakken.
This summer’s shutdown comes after the fully booked campground was closed last August, when a plague-carrying rodent was discovered at the park. That closure occurred immediately before the Railroad Days weekend, but officials were able to reopen the campground in time for the fully booked Labor Day weekend.
In 2008, PESP made then-Gov. Schwarzenegger’s list of 28 parks to shutter. But locals protested en masse to save their beloved state park. The California parks department said it received more letters regarding PESP than any other park.
This time around, the park wasn’t so lucky. State parks officials said they considered statewide significance, visitation, fiscal strength, ability to physically close, existing partnerships, infrastructure and land use restrictions in drawing up their closure list.
In developing the list, the department said it tried to protect the most significant natural and cultural resources, to maintain public access and revenue generation to the greatest extent possible, and to protect closed parks so that they remain attractive and usable for potential partners.
Despite the large number of parks identified for closure, the agency contends that its plan preserves 92 percent of today’s attendance and 94 percent of existing revenues.
The California State Parks Foundation has criticized the closure plan, saying it targets 40 percent of the state’s historic parks.
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