Park gates will swing shut without a rescue plan
In October, I visited Castle Crags State Park, a park spanning over 4,000 acres in the Klamath Mountains of Northern California. As the gateway to over 10,000 acres of federal wilderness, this park’s trails will lead you through forested canyons to waterfalls, views of Mt. Shasta and glacier-polished spires that rise to over 6,500-feet. Park campgrounds and a picnic area border the upper Sacramento River, a spot where whitewater explorers can gain a majestic view of the spires.
The park was among the initial group of iconic landscapes recommended by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. in 1929 for acquisition by the state. The wild lands became a state park in 1963. In 2005, the State Parks Department also identified this park as one of 29 park units in the system considered to have the “most outstanding natural resources values.”
Yet today Castle Crags State Park is one of 70 that made the notorious closure list drafted by a group of a dozen or so park professionals enlisted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation earlier this year.
When we arrived at Castle Crags on a Saturday afternoon, the park was in self-service mode due to service cuts. My husband and I happily dropped $25 into the self-registration tube and woke up at the crack of dawn to hike into the Castle Crags Wilderness to climb one of the dramatic granite peaks called Mt. Hubris via a technical route called “Cosmic Wall.”
Over eight miles of the Pacific Crest Trail passes through the park near mile 1,507, and the park’s campground offers a campsite for hikers passing through.
Now, with no formal rescue plans on the table (like in these parks), this park is slowly shutting down. The campground, on both sides of the Sacramento River, will close permanently on November 18, 2011, according to a supervising ranger in the Northern Buttes District of the parks department. Once the first snowstorm arrives, the state will close the gate since the park does not have the funds to plow the road and keep facilities open, as in past years. At this time, the parks department plans to open the day use areas briefly in the spring before permanently closing the entire park by July 1, 2012.
With the gates closed, a 2-1/2 mile winding road that leads to the park’s main trailhead will be inaccessible.
A recreation officer in the nearby Mt. Shasta Ranger station is concerned about how the park’s closure will strain their limited resources and speculated that his office might be in the same sinking boat in a year or two.
On July 9, 2012, Castle Crags State Park re-opened for camping and day use. Camping will be available on a first come, first served basis. California State Parks will operate the park while negotiations continue with potential partners.
This is the tenth article in a series on threats to California State Parks and the search for sustainable funding.