There’s no ‘they’ in Bidwell Park

It’s up to us to polish Chico’s crown jewel

Longtime park volunteer Susan Mason is a co-founder and current president of Friends of Bidwell Park.

I spend hundreds of hours a year doing volunteer work through Friends of Bidwell Park. Because of this, park visitors and acquaintances who learn about my park involvement often ask questions that start with “Why don’t they …” or “What are they doing about …” or “When are they going to ….”

The question may be about why don’t they close bootleg trails, why don’t they repair eroding trails, why don’t they remove Himalayan blackberries from Lower Park creekside trails, when are they going to improve Upper Park trails to make them accessible to mountain bikers in the winter, what are they doing about the yellow star thistle that’s replaced Upper Park wildflower fields, or myriad other unanswerable queries.

Many of these questioners also offer advice about what should be done, such as “They should be clearing out the undergrowth (substitute grape vines, downed tree limbs, grasses, etc.) to reduce the fire hazard.”

To the few who pay attention to such matters, it’s no surprise that there is no they.

Bidwell Park comprises 3,670 acres. To maintain this, the city has six permanent workers, one supervisor and, when funding allows, two to three seasonal workers. These workers are also responsible for maintaining other city-owned open spaces and parks.

Park maintenance is funded entirely through the Chico General Fund, which comes primarily from sales taxes, utility taxes, in-lieu vehicle-license fees and property taxes. The park finally has a full-time volunteer coordinator who recruits businesses, individuals, students and organizations to work in the park. However, the amount of funding, staff and volunteers available provides just a drop in the bucket to the amount required to adequately care for Bidwell Park.

How can you help? Start taking some personal responsibility for the long-term health of Bidwell Park.

• “Adopt” an area of the park, or participate in the scheduled volunteer activities of the Chico Park Division, FOBP, California Native Plant Society or Protogrove.

• Ask your employer or co-workers to sponsor a volunteer activity. If you’re a student, become a park intern for a semester.

• If you walk or bike on Upper Park trails frequently, become a Trail Watcher, reporting problem areas on the trails.

• Donate to Bidwell Park via the current Annie B’s Community Drive or include the Bidwell Park Endowment Fund in your estate planning.

• When the Park Commission starts to talk about priorities later this fall, insist that they prioritize maintenance of the many already-identified park problems over new uses.

If you use and enjoy Chico’s crown jewel, Bidwell Park, then think about what you can do to show your appreciation in a tangible way by taking action to polish it.