River Park Could Someday Include Campgrounds
Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record
State-operated parkland along the Sacramento River may see some improvements such as campgrounds, more picnic areas, trails, parking and ecosystem restoration. The California Department of Parks and Recreation is currently asking the public for help in updating its general plan, a road map to add to the park system over the next 20 years.
No funding is lined up, so the planning process is more to set priorities for the future and find out what the public is and isn't interested in seeing along the river.
An online survey is available for more input at www.parks.ca.gov/generalplans.
The schedule is to have the general plan completed by spring of 2004.
The park unit is four separate properties which cover 220 acres. These include the day use area with an entrance fee south at the mouth of Big Chico Creek, Indian Fishery picnic area, Pine Creek Landing north of Scotty's and Irvine Finch River Access on the west side of the river.
The general plan is also taking into consideration three parcels of land along the river that might be transferred into state park ownership in the future.
One of these properties is the Sunset Ranch, recently purchased by the Nature Conservancy and located on the east back of the river right off Highway 32.
One idea on the table is to move the administration building for the park to the Sunset Ranch.
Park managers are also interested in adding campgrounds along the river, as this is one of the most common requests by the public.
It's unclear yet how many campsites would be added. It depends on where they could be fit in. But the park managers are considering group camp sites as well.
Steve Pavich, of the consulting firm EDAW, laid out three alternative packages at the meeting. One would include the least amount of changes and minimal environmental improvement. Then there would be a middle-ground approach and finally a big wish list of all sorts of improvements for recreation and the environment.
Funding is not being considered at this phase.
Some of the ideas include expanding Irvine Finch boat ramp and developing a site where people could more easily launch boats that do not require a trailer.
A visitor center to house many different agencies that have to do with the river could be constructed. Expanding Indian Fisheries picnic area or building a small campground at that location is being considered.
Other ideas include expanding the walking trail at Indian Fishery and building a working farm at the Sunset Ranch.
Planners also need to decide how far environmental projects should go. Park managers could simply monitor existing habitat and keep out invasive weeds. Or they could seek out new restoration projects.
All of these ideas need to be balanced with the fact that the river in this area will be allowed a more natural meander.
Rick McGraugh has worked for the state park for 20 years. When he started a lot of the area along the river was marked with roads made by off-road vehicles. Over time, designated parking places have been added and fencing put up along the area to encourage people to park and walk to the river, he said. This can be seen along Pine Creek north of Scotty's where low fencing "guides" people to a good place to access the water.
A lot of effort has also been made to restore habitat.
Cleanup of illegal dumping is also an ongoing effort.
A nature trail was built at Indian Fisheries, the Irvine Finch facility was built in 1988 and an interpretive sign was added by an Eagle Scout north of West Sacramento Avenue.
"Copyrighted article reprinted with permission."