Boaters, campers and other users of Turlock Lake can rest easy. It looks as if the state park that surrounds it will not close after all.
The state has reached an agreement with American Land & Leisure, a recreation management company based in Orem, Utah, to run the park for the next five years.
The transition will start July 1, which was the date the park was set to close as part of the state's budget-cutting efforts.
"We're really excited to be entering into a partnership with the state park system," company Vice President Steve Werner said.
Visitor fees will cover the operating costs, including monthly rent payments to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, he said. The exact terms were not available as of Friday.
The Turlock Irrigation District, which owns the lake, has been working with the state on the new arrangement, spokesman Herb Smart said. The TID board will consider signing off on it soon.
District officials had considered managing the park themselves but opted for the private contractor. The TID could have closed the operation, but it would have had to pay for fencing, security and maintenance.
The agreement marks another success in saving state parks in and near Stanislaus County. Henry Coe State Park, in the hills southwest of Newman, got a three-year reprieve thanks to donors. Hatfield and McConnell state recreation areas, along the Merced River, will go at least another year thanks to fundraising. The same is happening at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown.
Turlock Lake State Recreation Area is on 228 acres bordered by the Tuolumne River and the reservoir. It was built by the federal Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and has been leased to the state since 1950.
The park draws about 79,000 visits a year for camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, nature study and other activities.
Werner said his company can reduce costs by no longer having certain work done
by people with law enforcement training.
"The fees will remain the same," he said. "We're going to commit to doing all the things the state park was doing."
American Land & Leisure runs some of the campgrounds in the Stanislaus National Forest. It has contracts for other national forest campgrounds around the nation and at some of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s reservoirs in California.
Modesto Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.