When the state of California, deep in red ink, announced the potential closure of the South Yuba River State Park and 70 other state parks, the news hit our local community like a bombshell.
Adding to the shock is the news that the historic Bridgeport covered bridge has already been closed due to concerns about its structural integrity with no identified funding to repair it.
For the last several months, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) and other advocates have been working to keep the parks open and — in a worst-case scenario — provide some measure of services if the parks are closed.
But as The Union reported earlier this week (“Questions surround state parks closure list,” Nov. 3), the South Yuba River State Park might get a reprieve and be removed from the closure list.
According to press reports, state parks officials have been unable to explain how they will physically close the park — which spans 20 miles from Bridgeport to Malakoff — or to protect it from vandalism, illegal dumping, fires, encampments and marijuana grows without law enforcement or maintenance staff.
While it is too soon to celebrate, it is time for those of us who love the South Yuba River to demand that Sacramento remove the South Yuba River State Park from the closure list.
Closing any of our state parks poses unacceptable risks, and SYRCL stands united with park defenders across the state to prevent Sacramento from abdicating its responsibility for the safety and cleanliness of our parks.
We are all deeply connected to these parks. When I was a fourth grade student at the North Columbia Schoolhouse, the Malakoff Diggins was where we learned California history and heard stories about the Maidu and the Gold Rush.
For my nieces and nephews today, the beach at Bridgeport below the wondrous Bridgeport covered bridge is a safe swimming beach in hot summer months.
For my friends in the business community, the parks are a boon, attracting 500,000 to 1 million visitors a year who shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants and are a vital part of Nevada County’s struggling economy.
SYRCL strongly encourages river lovers to take action to keep these parks open. We also must find the funds to repair and reopen the Bridgeport Covered Bridge.
SYRCL recognizes that the State of California is hurting financially. We understand that protecting our parks requires partnerships. Pulling together as a community, we can keep these parks open.
Just seven weeks ago, SYRCL mobilized more than 650 volunteers to remove over 14,000 pounds of garbage from area riverbanks in just one day. Last summer, SYRCL members paid for the placement of much needed porta-potties at Purdon Crossing.
If the state sticks with us and keeps the parks open, I expect SYRCL members and the community at large will step up and volunteer to help keep the parks clean; renew their annual memberships to pay for more bathrooms this summer; and educate the young and old to be good stewards, which means if you “pack it in, pack it out.”
We are inspired by our friend Alden Olmsted who tirelessly carries on the legacy of his father, John Olmsted, to advocate for our parks.
Alden says that if every Californian “gives a buck” we can save them. So far he has collected over $26,000 with his bucket campaign.
Visit the Olmsted Fund, a nonprofit, at www.johnolmsted.net today or find his donation buckets at BriarPatch and the SYRCL office.
SYRCL applauds the leadership of our former executive director, Shawn Garvey, who has spearheaded the effort to engage the broader community in this fight.
As Shawn eloquently summarized the issue: “How long will it take before the Yuba is no longer a place even worth caring about?”
SYRCL will join KVMR and others in hosting a “Town Hall on the Fate of the South Yuba River” on Monday, Dec. 12, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City (and broadcast live on KVMR) featuring representatives of state and local agencies, business and advocacy organizations.
Please join SYRCL in taking action today: Contact your state and county elected officials; drop a dollar in The Olmsted Fund’s collection buckets; and attend the town hall.
To paraphrase SYRCL’s longtime motto that “People Can Save a River,” “People Can Save a Park!”
Written by Caleb Dardick, Executive Director of the South Yuba River Citizens League