The gift turns one hundred
The CN&R honors Bidwell Park’s 100th birthday with a series of stories leading up to a special centennial Issue
All the bars were closed.
One hundred years ago, out of respect for the ceremony being held on the front lawn of Bidwell Mansion, and as likely deference to Annie Bidwell’s intolerance for “intoxicating liquors,” Chico’s saloon owners shut their doors for the duration of the official public benefaction of the original 1,900-plus acres of Bidwell Park.
After a short program of music from the Neubarth orchestra and a couple of guest speakers, including Susan B. Anthony—who cited the mutual rights in the “domestic and public life of General and Mrs. Bidwell” as an example of the value to the community of such a relationship—Annie spoke reverently about the gift, drawing from her own relationship with the area’s wilderness:
“A panorama of the past moved before me, followed by one of the future when little children, young men and maidens, men and women of all ages; the sad, the discouraged, the happy, should enjoy this Garden of God, because He had bestowed on me the power and the wisdom to preserve it.”
With this issue, the N&R begins its coverage of the Bidwell Park Centennial with an introduction to the activities and festivities planned for the months leading up to the anniversary date of July 10. Each month we’ll have a different story on a different facet of the park, culminating with a special centennial issue in July.
For the park’s 100th birthday, the Bidwell Park Centennial Committee, in conjunction with dozens of local organizations, has packed the next several months with activities surrounding the park, both as it is now and as it was in the past (see sidebar). The culminating events will include a reenactment of the deed signing ceremony at the mansion (though it’s unlikely any bars of today will join in keeping the day authentic) on July 10, and on July 23 there will be a community picnic at One-Mile in honor of the deed being put into record with the city.
Chico’s “crown jewel” normally makes the news when there’s a contentious issue regarding the park’s future, and in a growing community without enough resources to handle such an enormous park, there are plenty of issues. Overall use continues to increase—we are literally loving the park to death, some say—and that gives rise to particular issues and challenges, such as the disc golf course, the Annie Bidwell Trail, invasive plants and the fight over what do with the Bidwell Ranch property.
In the meantime, the city and its Park Department, along with a Citizens Advisory Committee, are working to draft an updated park master management plan and accompanying environmental impact report before the end of the summer.
But as we try to shape Bidwell Park’s future and insure that Annie’s wish that this “grand work of God may be preserved to his glory, and the happiness and pleasure of said City for all time,” as the deed says, it’s also worthwhile to focus on the simple daily pleasure we draw from the park, experiences such as those that inspired Annie to give the gift in the first place:
“Scene after scene arose in memory of days passed on the banks of this beautiful stream. I saw the heaps of rocks, with the tiny one perched on the summit, and General [Bidwell] challenging the young people to vie with him in its dislodgement; the pile of rocks oft renewed, the tiny one on top; and I heard the merry laughter and the music of the creek.”