Supes cool to state park plan
A proposal to build a 360-acre state park on the Sacramento River that would restore hundreds of acres of riparian habitat should be an easy sell to the Butte County Board of Supervisors, right?
In fact, the supervisors really dislike the plan—and want to tell state park officials how they feel in no uncertain terms. At their meeting Tuesday (March 11), they discussed a draft of a letter to the state Department of Parks and Recreation commenting on the proposed park’s draft environmental-impact report, and their consensus was to word the missive as strongly as possible.
“This [draft] seems like a nice letter about a project nobody wants,” board Chairman Curt Josiassen said.
The park would be located in the area where the infamous “washout"—the site of drunken disembarkation for legions of river tubers—is located. It would add nearly 360 acres of land to the Bidwell Sacramento River State Park on both sides of River Road, including nearly 200 acres of land now being farmed that would be restored to river forest. It would also add some 50 camp sites, including 25 RV sites.
The supervisors were concerned about a number of issues, beginning with the campground. Supervisor Jane Dolan worried that people would take up residence there and the Sheriff’s Department would have to patrol it.
Josiassen agreed: “It could become long-term lodging.”
The county is distrustful of the state these days, noted County Counsel Bruce Alpert, reminding the board of the problems resulting from the Oroville Dam relicensing disagreements with the state Department of Water Resources and problems of criminality at the Oroville Wildlife Area, which is under the aegis of the state Department of Fish and Game. “It’s a free-for-all,” he said. The wildlife area “to this day does not have enough staff to do policing.”
“Not only do we have to police [the new park], we get no money for it,” complained Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi. He was referring to the fact that the state pays no property taxes on land it owns.
More specific problems mentioned by the supervisors including flooding, lack of fire protection, the lack of a 300-foot buffer with adjacent farm land, the loss of prime farm land, the danger of untreated sewage getting into the river and much more. The state will be required to respond to the comments in the final EIR, but ultimately it will make the decision on the park.
Finally, the supervisors seemed astonished that the state would be building a new park at a time when, because of budget constraints, it is considering closing 43 state parks.
As Dolan expressed it, “Putting an inappropriate use in an agricultural area when they can’t take care of what they have makes no sense.”
They also asked CAO Brian Haddix to have the county’s lobbyist contact local legislators and the governor.
The letter will be sent to Denise Reichenberg, the superintendent of the Northern Buttes District/Valley Sector of the state parks department. Reached by phone at her office at the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, she addressed some of the county’s concerns.
Yes, she said, the state has budget problems, but it does have grant and bond money to build new parks like this one. The area historically was river forest, and the park would restore some of that riparian habitat. The process would begin with revegetation and reforestation of the farmed land, and the campgrounds would be built only when the state had funds to operate them, which could be several years in the future.
Concerns about people living at the campground and lack of policing are unfounded, she said. State parks have their own rangers to do policing, she explained, and long experience in running campgrounds. In addition, the sector headquarters for the Bidwell Sacramento State Park would be located there, which means staff would be around at all times.
She also noted that the camping facilities would take up less than one-quarter of the park and would not be visible from the road. The rest of the site would be forested land with hiking trails.