It was a beautiful morning at China Camp on Sunday, May 20. Friends of China Camp, a nonprofit and grassroots organization, held a membership meeting at China Camp Village to elect new board members and to update their membership on the progress being made to keep the state park open. A little more than one year ago, the California Department of Parks & Recreation released a , because of budget cuts in the department.
To the surprise of many, four of these parks were in Marin County, including China Camp.
At the time, Friends of China Camp was a small organization, with about 25 members, that was involved in creating interpretive programs for the park and coordinating volunteers at the museum and ranger station. Since the beginning of the year, it has grown into a grassroots organization with over 950 members and a determination to keep China Camp State Park open.
A number of prominent community supporters were present at the meeting, including Louise Kanter Lipsey, one of the early advocates of creating China Camp State Park back in the 1970s, Alden Olmsted of the Olmsted Park Fund, and John Muir of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. Susan Adams, a candidate for Congress, and Jenny Callaway from Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s office, were also present and strongly supportive.
Marin District Superintendant Danita Rodriguez gave us an update on what is happening with the 70 state parks on the closure list. As many as 16 of them have been given temporary reprieves, and many more have proposals for operating agreements that are currently being processed by the state. It is still not known when the operating agreement for China Camp will be signed, although plans are already underway for Friends of China Camp to begin park operations on July 1.
Frank Quan was present at the meeting as well. At 86 years old, he is the last remaining resident of China Camp Village, a descendant of Quan Hung Quock, one of the early settlers of the shrimp fishing village. Frank leaned over the wooden railing, listening intently while Danita gave her talk. The words she spoke had the potential to completely change Frank’s life, to the point of forcing him to find another place to live. His residency at China Camp is guaranteed in the General Plan of the state park, which was written when the park was created back in the late 1970s. If China Camp is no longer a state park, however, there is a measure of uncertainty about what will happen to him.
Friends of China Camp Board Chairman Ernest Chung spoke next, talking about the steps remaining in finalizing the operating agreement. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Department of Parks & Recreation, and there may be several rounds of ironing out details and coming to agreement over the finer points. It is hoped that the final agreement can be signed in time for the projected closure date of July 1, in order to ensure a smooth transition after this time.
In order to effectively operate the state park starting on July 1, Friends of China Camp is aiming to raise $250,000 by that time. The current amount raised so far is approximately $190,000, with strong community support coming in from throughout the Bay Area. Various events are taking place in the park each week, from cultural festivities to half marathons, with some of the proceeds going to benefit the Friends of China Camp. The next big event will take place on June 20 at the San Francisco Maritime Museum. It will feature a performance by musicians from the San Francisco Symphony, an oyster bar, dim sum station, along with wine and beer. The Grace Quan, a replica Chinese junk ship, will be anchored just offshore, in front of Aquatic Park.
This year has seen amazing progress in the fight to save China Camp State Park. The next few weeks will prove to be critical in the success of this community-based grassroots effort to save not only a state park, but an important part of the history, culture, and natural environment of the Bay Area. Supporters are urged to visit FriendsOfChinaCamp.org and join, donate, or sign up to volunteer.