Proposal for the park

An idea for how lovers of Chico’s premier green space can help preserve it

The author is a longtime Butte County resident, small business owner and avid fan of Bidwell Park.

Given the recent interest regarding vehicular access into Bidwell Park, I think we can agree on one thing: The park is a treasure. It elevates our quality of life and the stature of our town. We all want to ensure that our grandchildren can experience the rush of plunging into Salmon Hole, bask in alpenglow on volcanic cliffs and stroll beneath towering valley oaks.

Unfortunately, our cherished park is being loved to death. Ever-increasing usage, the city’s budgetary cutbacks and abuse by a small percentage of users have caused extensive degradation. What to do? Let’s implement a Bidwell Park Master Naturalist Program.

Modeled after the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program, the Bidwell Park Master Naturalist Program would be a semester-long training and certification program. The course would be available to residents who wish to increase their knowledge of Bidwell Park and serve in volunteer programs that support park stewardship. If offered as a credit course for high school and college students, the benefits would increase exponentially as young leaders educate their peers.

Applicants would receive training and pass a written test to become certified park naturalists. After completion of the course, they would provide a specified number of volunteer hours of community outreach/education or park enhancement projects each year to maintain their certification.

The program could be administered by Butte College, Chico State or the city of Chico. College alumni and staff provide a wealth of local experts capable of instructing on all things Bidwell Park. Potential lecture topics include cultural history, geology, hydrology, native and invasive plants, wildlife, riparian ecology, restoration efforts and trail-building methods.

Imagine the power of educated, motivated volunteers advocating for our park. They could organize and complete improvement projects, act as docents and lead field trips. Perhaps their most important role would be to educate the public about the challenges facing the park. The ripple effect would be wide-reaching: knowledge and community ties helping to preserve our beloved Bidwell Park.