Keep Bidwell Mansion open

It’s the heart of Chico’s sense of history

The inclusion of Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park among the 70 state parks slated to be closed next fiscal year doesn’t make any kind of sense—economic, educational or cultural. We’re glad to see that the 221 members of the Bidwell Mansion Association are working hard to persuade our legislators to keep the mansion open, and we encourage others to join their letter-writing effort.

As BMA President Keith Johnson and Vice President Mike Magliari point out in a recent letter addressed to local Assemblyman Dan Logue but also sent to Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, each year an average of 37,000 visitors tour the mansion, with many coming from outside the area and even outside the state.

In addition, Johnson and Magliari write, in 2010 nearly 2,200 children from around the area, most of them third- and fourth-graders studying California history, visited the mansion “to learn more about John and Annie Bidwell, the Maidu Indians, the California Gold Rush, and other fascinating aspects of their wonderfully rich heritage as citizens of California.”

You would think, with that many people coming through, the mansion would have a large payroll. Not so. Currently it has a bare-bones staff that includes just one full-time state parks employee. Its closure, like that of the other state parks slated for shutdown, would cost the state more in lost tax dollars than it would save in operating expenses.

The best bet for keeping the parks open would be passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, including the extension of certain temporary taxes to remove the $9.6 billion budget shortfall remaining following more than $12 billion in budget cuts. But that will require some Republican votes, and so far Logue, Nielsen and LaMalfa have hewn to their no-taxes pledge, the consequences be damned.

If the lights at Bidwell Mansion are turned off permanently, at least we’ll know who was responsible.