Over 400 community members packed a Town Hall meeting co-sponsored by the South River Citizens League (SYRCL) last Monday evening (December 12th) to launch a major grassroots campaign to save the South Yuba River and Malakoff Diggins State Parks. In the week since, dozens of volunteers have collected over 2,500 signatures on letters and petitions addressed to Governor Brown demanding that he remove these two parks from the list of 70-state parks now slated to close on July 1, 2012.
“Last week, SYRCL challenged the community to collect 5,000 signatures in 30 days to tell Sacramento that we will not stand by and allow our treasured parks to close,” said SYRCL Executive Director Caleb Dardick. “Within hours, dozens of volunteers of all ages were on the street, in front of grocery stores, at both Victorian and Cornish Christmas asking people to support our campaign to ‘Save Our Yuba State Parks.’ I am so proud of this community for boldly taking on this campaign during these busy days leading into the holidays.”
“The support by SYRCL and our local community, as well as businesses and organizations, has been immense,” says volunteer Cara Wasilewski. “Everywhere I go I see a signature form on a restaurant counter, or someone gathering signatures at a local market. This is an issue dear to many in our community and it seems everyone is willing to help in any way they can to keep the South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins State Park open.”
Miriam Limov, SYRCL’s RiverPeople Coordinator concurs: “The Town Hall sparked a community tornado of activity! Folks walk into the SYRCL office nonstop picking up petitions to take everywhere they are going. Restaurants like Lefty’s have them in their menus. People are Facebooking about it too. It’s awesome!”
The Nevada City Council unanimously approved a resolution last Wednesday in support of SYRCL’s efforts to keep the state parks open. The resolution was initiated by Councilmember Robert Bergman who reported that the Grass Valley City Council may follow suit in January. “We applaud Councilmember Bergman for his strong leadership on this important issue. He has been among the first to recognize that with over 350,000 visitors to the South Yuba River State Park annually, park closures could have a devastating impact on the local economy,” said Dardick. A 2009 Sacramento State University study estimates that each visitor on average spends $33 per visit, while out of state visitors spend an average of $185 per person. This translates into $9-11 million into the local economy.
Several state parks have recently been removed from the closure list as a result of community involvement and alternative funding contracts with the State. Parks removed from the closure list include Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve and Henry W. Coe State Park. Organizers at SYRCL are hoping to replicate these successful efforts in Nevada County with a full-scale letter writing campaign to Governor Brown, visits to the State Capitol, and new public-private partnerships with the State Parks Department.
Prior to last Monday evening’s Town Hall, 40 elementary school students from Grass Valley Charter School traveled to the State Capitol for a formal audience with Resource Secretary John Laird, and representatives for Assemblyman Dan Logue and Senator Ted Gaines. The students appealed to Secretary Laird, stating that “nature is our teacher, and parks are our classrooms” and asking that these key regional parks be removed from the closure list immediately.
In addition to SYRCL, the Town Hall meeting on “The Fate of the South Yuba River and Malakoff Diggins State Parks” was co-sponsored by KVMR 89.5 FM, Yubanet, and the Miners Foundry. Panelists included Matthew Green, District Superintendent, State Parks Department; Linsey Fredenburg-Humes, California State Parks Association Grassroots Manager; Alden Olmsted, Executive Director, Olmsted Park Fund; and Dardick.
To support SYRCL’s grassroots campaign to save South Yuba River and Malakoff Diggins State Parks, download a petition at www.yubariver.org/saveparks or pick one up at the SYRCL office, 216 Main Street in Nevada City.