Zmudowski Beach with photoshopped driftwood. Photo by Jim Bahn ( under Creative Commons licensing.

The walking dead: state parks that likely won’t be saved

Update 6/30: Only one park will be closed on July 1, a park that is already closed. Get the latest update here.

Update 6/29: A legislative reprieve has given the state more time to finalize deals in the works to take over many of the parks. As of today only 5 parks will be closing on July 1. Get the latest update here.

Photo credit: Zmudowski Beach with Photoshopped driftwood by Jim Bahn

Each day there’s new happy news about a state park that’s been saved from the July 1 closure list. Communities, individuals and businesses are stepping up to take the reins of their favorite local park or pitching in the money needed to keep the gates open.

According to a Mercury News article just yesterday some two-thirds of California parks on the closure list may be saved. Of the original 70, 31 have already been given an official reprieve and another 24 are in negotiations, per the Mercury News tally.

But the thing that caught my attention in the article was that “15 so far have no rescuers.” For all the good news about the parks to be saved, including recent additions like Portola Redwoods State Park and the likely to be saved China Camp and Olompali State Parks, there remain a handful of smaller, less visited parks that are likely to be shuttered on July 1.

If indeed the list of parks to close drops to a mere 15, it is a bittersweet victory. We are choosing to save the popular parks, the most visited parks or the parks with the most generous and wealthy advocates, but isn’t there value to those “lesser” parks too? They wouldn’t have become state parks without value.

Under this new system of financing some parks, the idea of the more popular paying for the less-so starts to dissolve and we risk becoming a state where the only parks that matter are those that can have a Disney=like draw – the ones that can make the most money – or the ones in more populous and wealthy areas that are likely to have advocates step up to the plate to cover for the state.

And setting that aside, if the list drops to a mere 15, doesn’t the budget burden drop as well to a small enough number that maybe, just maybe, we should reconsider closing them at all? Sell me an 8-character vanity license plate to pay for it, which seems likely to raise enough money to save at least some if not all of those 15 parks.

After thinking about this for some time, I realized that even for all my love of state parks, I hadn’t a clue about which parks are the true walking dead. In honor of those parks we are likely to lose, I give you the list of 15. The list is largely historic sites, in less populated areas and sadly, some are already closed so you can’t squeeze them all in before July 1 even if you tried.

Update 6/23/2012: Per an email with Mercury News’ Paul Rogers, while these are the “orphan parks,” his reporting finds that some of them could still be saved “if things go right.” Let’s hope things go right.

Update 6/28/2012: Three of the orphan parks have potential rescuers: Moss Landing State Beach, Garrapata State Park and Benecia State Recreation Area.

Have you been to any of these parks? Talk about it in the comments.

The state parks’ walking dead

Listed roughly north to south.

Fort Humboldt State Historic Park

Fort Humboldt is situated on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay. This remote military post was established in 1853 to assist in conflict resolution between Native Americans and gold-seekers and settlers who had begun flooding into the area after the discovery of gold in the northern mines.
[Read more from the state park site]

William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park

William B. Ide wrote the proclamation that established the short-lived California Bear Republic in 1846. It lasted 22 days… The park today reflects the hard work it took to maintain life away from California’s urban centers inmid-19th century.
[Read more from the state park site]

Greenwood State Beach

Greenwood State Beach offers beach access and a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean. The central theme is of Greenwood as a lumber town in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. The Visitor Center is in the middle of town and provides a glimpse of what life was like in this lumber town during the late 1800’s.
[Read more from the state park site]

Manchester State Park

Manchester State Park features a beach, sand dunes, and flat grasslands, with nearly 18,000 feet of ocean frontage. The beach line curves gently to form a “catch basin” for sea debris, which accounts for the volume of driftwood found here. Five miles of gentle, sandy beach stretches southward towards the Point Arena Lighthouse.
[Read more from the state park site]

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is the site of California’s largest “hydraulic” mine. Visitors can see huge cliffs carved by mighty streams of water, results of the gold mining technique of washing away entire mountains to find the precious metal… The park also contains a 7,847 foot bedrock tunnel that served as a drain.
[Read more from the state park site]

Benicia State Recreation Area

Update 6/28: Legislative proposal could reopen negotiations for the city of Benicia to step in with this park.

Benicia State Recreation Area covers marsh, grassy hillsides and rocky beaches along the narrowest portion of the Carquinez Strait.
Cyclists, runners, walkers, equestrians, and roller skaters enjoy the park’s 2 1/2 miles of road and bike paths.
[Read more from the state park site]

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park This was initially listed on the Mercury News map as without a plan. Reporter Paul Rogers clarified via email that it is Benicia State Recreation Area, not the Capitol State Park, that is in jeopardy and they will be revising their map

Gray Whale Cove State Beach

The beach (a.k.a. Devil’s Slide) features a sheltered cove surrounded by cliffs that drop abruptly into the Pacific Ocean. A steep trail leads down to the beach. There is a small picnic area on the bluff above. Gray whales can often be seen close to the shore.
[Read more from the state park site]

California Mining and Mineral Museum

‘There’s gold in the hills of California!’ These words echoed around the world in 1848 and started a mass migration to the wilderness of interior California… You are invited to discover for yourself California’s mineral wealth, colorful history and geologic diversity as you view the official mineral collection of the state of California.
[Read more from the state park site]

Zmudowski State Beach

The beach is a popular fishing area, featuring perch, kingfish, sole, flounder, halibut, bocaccio (tomcod), jacksmelt, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, steelhead and occasional rockfish. The beach features the Pajaro River estuary, where a natural preserve has been set aside.
[Read more from the state park site]

Moss Landing State Beach

Update 6/28: A probable deal to save this park is under discussion.

Offshore fishing, surfing, windsurfing and horseback riding are popular activities. The beach is a favorite place for picnics because the dunes protect it from afternoon winds. This area is an important stop along the Pacific Flyway so birdwatching is popular.
[Read more from the state park site]

Garrapata State Park

Update 6/28: A probable deal to save this park is under discussion.

The park has two miles of beach front, with coastal hiking and a 50-foot climb to a beautiful view of the Pacific. The park offers diverse coastal vegetation with trails running from ocean beaches into dense redwood groves.
[Read more from the state park site]

Saddleback Butte State Park

Saddleback Butte, elevation 3,651 feet, is a granite mountaintop that towers some thousand feet above the broad alluvial bottom land of the Antelope Valley about fifteen miles east of Lancaster, on the western edge of the Mojave Desert.
[Read more from the state park site]

Providence Mountains State Recreation Area

Providence Mountains State Recreation Area is located on the east side of the Providence Mountain range and has dramatic views of the surrounding Mojave Desert. The lower elevations feature many varieties of cactus and yucca in a creosote scrub habitat. The bright red rhyolite in the higher elevations are home to bighorn sheep and pinyon pines.” [Read more on the state park site]

San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park

San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park, east of Escondido, honors the soldiers who fought in the battle between the U.S. and Californio forces on December 6, 1846 in the midst of the Mexican-American War.
[Read more on the state park site]

Picacho State Recreation Area

100 years ago Picacho was a gold mining town with 100 citizens. Today the site is a State Park, popular with boaters, hikers, anglers and campers. The park offers diverse scenery, including beavertail cactus, wild burros, bighorn sheep and thousands of migratory waterfowl.
[Read more on the state park site]

Have you been to one of the state parks’ walking dead? Talk about it in the comments or post your photos on our Facebook page.