BLAUERT: Value still in cash-strapped parks

06/05/2012 11:50 PM

06/06/2012 12:37 AM

As the July 1 deadline draws near many groups are frantically working to keep state parks from closing.

Just recently we had great news about the success of the East Merced Resource Conservation District's effort to keep Hatfield and McConnell State Recreation Areas open. Despite a hard fought effort, Mariposa's Mining and Mineral Museum will be closing in just a couple of weeks. Turlock Lake's fate has not yet been decided. Turlock Irrigation District (the owner of the property) is considering various options to keep it open.

Supporters of Jamestown's Railtown 1897 State Historic Park are still working to cover the coming year's operating costs. The success or failure of a Tuolumne County ballot measure in Tuesday's election will help to answer the question. Also part of the fundraising effort, Tuolumne County's Rotary Clubs are hosting a dinner at Railtown on Saturday. For tickets, call (209) 984-3953 or go to www.railtown1897.org.

Over the last few months I've tried to visit many of the parks on the closure list and was especially impressed by four historic sites. There are efforts to keep all four open, and you can show your support by visiting, donating, and contacting your elected officials.

Fort Tejon

Constructed in 1854 because of conflicts between Native Americans and Gold Rush pioneers, the remaining buildings have been restored and are open to the public. The park's cooperating associations have been working on a plan to rebuild the Hospital Building in the future. Tejon is one of the best preserved US Army posts from the mid-1800s anywhere in the western states. Especially popular is the Student Living History Program, which allows fourth- and fifth-grade classes to stay overnight at the fort to learn about daily life in the 1800s through demonstrations and hands-on activities. The park is located along I-5 between Bakersfield and Los Angeles and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cooperating associations are working diligently to raise enough funds in order to get state approval for continued operation of the park.

Ide Adobe

I had low expectations for a park centered on a one-room adobe house. When I finally visited, I was more than surprised. The house and the visitor center are a great place to learn about homestead life on the California frontier in the 1850s. Well-informed docents lead tours and make the house come to life with stories of the early years. Just as at Fort Tejon, students can participate in a popular living history program. The costumed interpreters are high school students from the Red Bluff area who spend the school year teaching younger students.

Located in Red Bluff, operating hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Benicia Capitol

This imposing brick building served as California's third seat of state government. Completely restored to its 1853-54 appearance, the building contains interesting exhibits about state government in the 1850s. Located near Vallejo, the park is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Benicia State Parks Association is working hard to get an agreement in place to operate the park and the neighboring Benicia State Recreation Area.

Weaverville

Joss House

The Joss House is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. Built by Weaverville's Chinese citizens in 1874, many of the interior decorations were crafted in China and shipped to the U.S. Tours are offered hourly on Thursdays and Saturdays starting at 10 a.m. with the last tour at 4 p.m. Expect to learn a lot -- the tour guide is an expert about the temple and knew its last Chinese caretaker. Part of the beauty of this park is that the temple remains the way it was built; it hasn't been moved to a museum. The weather and the offerings of worshippers provide an authentic atmosphere in which to enjoy the stories of the generations that maintained it and carried out ancient traditions in a new country. The park's cooperating association is working hard to keep the Joss House open, but more is still needed to ensure success.

Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys exploring the western states. He can be reached at adamblauert@yahoo.com.

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