Our View: Henry Coe State Park near Pacheco Pass will remain open awhile

Another state park has been given a reprieve, and it's the first one in our region to be removed from next summer's potential closure list.

The Coe Park Preservation Fund, a private citizens group centered in San Jose and Silicon Valley, will donate funds to help operate and provide basic maintenance for Henry W. Coe State Park from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015.

The nonprofit organization will provide the money; the work will be done by state parks' employees, according to an announcement from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The dollar value of the gift was not announced by the state, but according to the San Jose Mercury News, the preservation fund will provide $300,000 a year for each of the three years.

The money was collected from a number of contributors, the largest of whom is J. Daniel McCranie of Gilroy, a successful businessman in technology industries. He is chairman of the board of directors of ON Semiconductor Corp.

Stretching across 87,000 acres, Coe is the largest state park in Northern California. Although it straddles the Stanislaus-Santa Clara county line, the park primarily serves the Bay Area. Its two main entrances are off Highway 101, and the park is marketed as "the wilderness next door" for Bay Area residents.

The closest entrance for San Joaquin Valley residents is off Highway 152 at Bell's Station, between Los Banos and Casa de Fruta. The visitors' center on the 152 entrance, Dowdy Ranch, is currently closed.

Coe Park draws about 40,000 visitors a year for camping, backpacking, bird watching, hiking and horseback riding. Junior ranger and field trips are offered to students, many of them from the San Jose area.

The list released in May showed up to 70 parks could be closed starting in 2012-13. So far, nonprofit groups and others have stepped up to keep about 10 parks operating.

Five others in our region remain on the potential hit list: McConnell State Recreation Area in northern Merced County, the Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, the George Hatfield State Recreation Area between Newman and Hilmar, Railtown 1897 in Jamestown and Turlock Lake State Park.

State parks spokesman Roy Stearns told The Modesto Bee on Thursday that although inquiries have been made and there are some potential partnerships, there's nothing concrete to announce about the preservation of these other five parks.

As we've said repeatedly, our 270 state parks are a precious resource, providing healthy places for Californians to play and relax and drawing millions of tourist dollars annually. Over the long run, the state needs to find ways to keep them all going. In the meantime, we applaud the philanthropy that has surfaced to keep the parks operating.

For more information on the organization that will be preserving Coe, go to www.coeparkfund.org. For other information on state parks, go to www.parks.ca.gov.