"Lone resident of bygone shrimper village faces eviction" tells the story of 85-year-old Frank Quan, who could be forced to move from his home in China Camp State Park, one of 70 slated for closure amid a state budget cut. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the proposed closures. For those wishing to weigh in on the issue, contacts for key players and information on the China Camp State Park Heritage Day Celebration, to be held Aug. 27, are included.
Q: Why are the parks being closed?
A: The state parks department is facing a $22 million budget cut during the current and next fiscal year. The department said in May that it could not afford to operate all 278 of its parks and released a list of 70 that it plans to close by July 2012.
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Q: How did the state come up with its list of 70 parks for closure?
A: California State Parks officials have said they weighed a number of factors in determining which and how many parks to close: statewide significance, visitation, fiscal strength, ability to physically close, existing partnerships, infrastructure and land use restrictions.
Q: How did China Camp end up on the park closure list?
A: China Camp fits into the parks department’s equation. In fiscal year 2009-10, it recorded 95,654 visitors and brought in $143,022 in revenue. Its operation costs were an estimated $459,411 – mostly for two rangers in the field and two facilities management workers and not including district, sector or headquarters support costs.
It’s likely that China Camp’s true visitation, and therefore its would-be revenue, is higher than the official numbers. Danita Rodriguez, Marin district superintendent for California State Parks, said many visitors park on free county roads in the park, rather than in the five paid lots that charge $5 per day.
“If all those people were paying their day’s fees, both the attendance and revenue would have looked a lot healthier in terms of the status of China Camp,” Rodriguez said. “And perhaps, and I don’t know, but perhaps, it would not be on the closure list.”
Q: How does China Camp’s closure affect Frank Quan’s housing situation?
A: It puts it in limbo. Quan is mentioned in the park’s general plan: “Frank Quan will be permitted to continue his life-long tenancy in the area.” However, his house is state-owned, and it’s possible he will not be able to live there if the park closes. Quan wants to continue living in his house, and that’s what supporters and parks officials are trying to ensure.
Q: Are there costs associated with closing parks?
A: Yes, but closure costs are a moving target. As of August, the parks department estimated that ongoing costs for closing and caring for the 70 parks on the closure list to be $3.575 million. It estimates it will cost $150,000 annually to protect and preserve China Camp while closed. Those are early approximations the department used for planning, and the figures could move up or down as more detailed closure plans emerge.
“We have never closed a park before and gone through the exercise of compiling exactly what the ongoing closure costs might be,” said California State Parks spokesman Roy Stearns. “Our goal will be to lessen the amount for each park ongoing, in order to save money and be prepared for any unseen eventualities.”
Q: Is there any way parks could be saved from closure?
A: Possibly. Because this is the first time the state has closed parks, a lot of details are in flux. The parks department is soliciting ideas to help keep parks open while retaining ownership, and the California State Parks Foundation accepts donations to support the parks.
In the Marin district, where China Camp is located, officials are hoping individuals or groups will “adopt” parks so they can continue operating as is. The district also accepts contributions to its contingent fund; donations can be made to specific parks or projects. For more information, contact District Superintendent Danita Rodriguez at 707-769-5665 ext. 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, a group of government, parks and nonprofit officials formed the Open Parks Coalition in an effort to keep state parks in Marin open.
Marin District Superintendent
California State Parks
Write: 845 Casa Grande Road
Petaluma, CA 94954
Phone: 707-769-5665 ext. 224
Marin State Park Association
Write: P.O. Box 285
Novato, CA 94948
Friends of China Camp
Write: Route 1, Box 244
San Rafael, CA 94901
California State Parks Foundation
Write: 50 Francisco St., Suite 110
San Francisco, CA 94133
China Camp State Park Heritage Day Celebration
Saturday, Aug. 27, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
China Camp Village, N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
For more information, visit our React & Act event listing.