How wild is Bidwell Park?

Depends on where you look—Middle, not so much

Ever been to Middle Bidwell Park?

If the question puzzles you, you’re not alone. Like most people, you think of Bidwell Park as having two sections, Lower Park and Upper Park. But, according to the new Bidwell Park Master Management Plan, it actually has three parts.

Middle Park is described as the area between Manzanita Avenue on the west and Horseshoe Lake on the east. (There’s a sign on Manzanita that says “Upper Bidwell Park,” but never mind.) It includes the Hooker Oak and Five-Mile recreation areas, the horse arena, the golf course, the observatory, Horseshoe Lake and Monkey Face rock.

It’s distinguished from Upper Park ("Upper Upper Park"?) by virtue of its heavier use and the addition of such recreational elements as Five-Mile and the golf course—which, by the way, dates to 1903, when Annie Bidwell was still very much alive and offered no objection to building it.

There’s a popular bumper sticker that reads “Keep Upper Park Wild.” But which part of Upper Park does it refer to? And is Upper Park really “wild"?

We don’t think so. After all, there’s a public road that runs right up the middle of it and a transmission line that traverses it. There are well-used mountain-biking trails and parking lots with porta-potties. On many warm weekends, the lot at Bear Hole is packed with cars, as is the swimming hole with bodies. It’s wild, but not in the way the Sierra Club defines “wild.”

There are areas in the park that remain relatively untrammeled and should remain that way. By and large, they are located above Bear Hole and on the south side of Big Chico Creek. They offer miles of trails for folks who want to experience nature in something resembling its original state, and they should be preserved.

When it comes to such activities as disc golf and the recently proposed paragliding, however, the area between Horseshoe Lake and Bear Hole seems suitable to us. It offers a beautiful environment for such relatively unobtrusive and low-impact recreational activities. Call it Upper Middle Park or Lower Upper Park or whatever, but don’t close it off to reasonable good use.