Debbie Croft: Gold Country museum is a gem

September 21, 2012 

DEBBIE CROFT

It was 36 hours before the proposed closure date of July 1, 2012, when Darci Moore, curator of the Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, received a call stating the museum would not be closed.

The doors of the museum are still open, Moore said during an interview at the museum earlier this month.

"For now anyway. We're taking it month by month," she said. "But we're operating as normal, scheduling field trips for school students and planning programs."

If you've never been to the museum, it's worth a visit. Beautiful rocks and minerals are displayed in glass cases, surrounded by Gold Country history. Very impressive.

What makes this state park exceptional? In the one-story wood frame building on the Mariposa County Fairgrounds resides the official state collection of rocks, gems and minerals.

"It's a very significant collection. Geologists and experts in mineralogy come here to do their research," she continued.

Also included in the multi-million dollar collection are specimens from across the globe.

The collection was moved from San Francisco to Mariposa in 1983, after having been kept in the Ferry Building since 1881. The current museum structure was built and ready for occupancy in 1987. The state Department of Conservation handled the management of the collection and the museum until 1991, when the Department of Parks and Recreation took over.

Moore says people come from all over the world to see the exhibit, attracting 20,000 visitors annually.

The Mining and Mineral Museum is one of 70 state parks slated for closure. These closures would drastically affect the economy of rural communities relying heavily on tourism, especially those in the northern half of the state.

Leroy Radanovich is on the board of directors for the museum, has been a longtime resident of Mariposa and is highly knowledgeable about the area's history. He praised all those involved in the museum's operation while it has been situated in Mariposa.

Blame for the possible closure rests solely on our state government, he said.

Museum employee, Randy Bolt, believes if even a small part of the original effort that brought the collection to Mariposa was expended now, the museum would not be a candidate for closure or relocation.

Moore is concerned this 132-year-old display will no longer be available to the public. Or worse, that it will not remain protected.

Other individuals fear the more valuable pieces will be shipped to larger museums, leaving the rest of the collection languishing in storage, and forgotten.

California's state park system is the largest in the world.

It was during the summer that California news agencies reported the park department had "discovered" $54 million in surplus funds.

The public was shocked, especially with state budget cuts of the past three years continually threatening our parks. Numerous questions and concerns abound of course. But for now, the main issue is how and where the money will be used.

The burden rests on the governor's desk. Two bills were passed at the end of August by the Legislature and await Gov. Brown's signature.

Bill AB 1589 (Huffman) addresses the need for securing other financial means (besides taxpayers' money) to provide greater sustainability of our parks.

Bill AB 1478 (Blumenfield) is a budget trailer bill directing money originally intended for parks, to be used specifically for those parks threatened with closure and prohibiting closure until 2015.

Both bills outline procedures and policies for overseeing and managing the financial aspect of the parks with greater accountability. They also suggest initiating opportunities for private citizens, nonprofit groups and local organizations to become more involved with the parks on every level of operation.

The hope of all interested parties is that our state representatives will work hard at finding methods and monies for keeping the parks open indefinitely.

There is still time to contact your state legislators about this.

For more information

about how you can help keep state parks open, go to www.calparks.org and www.savestateparks.org.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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