Nonprofits Fight to Keep China Camp, Olompali Open

The plans to keep these parks open are gaining momentum, says Assemblyman Jared Huffman.

Several organizations in Marin County are raising funds to keep two state parks open.

and Olompali State Historic Park are among 70 parks that could be closed on July 1 because of an $11 million shortfall in the California Department of Parks and Recreation's 2011-2012 budget and a projected $22 million deficit the following year.

Eleven of those parks could stay open if nonprofit organizations agree to operate them, the Department of Parks and Recreation said Tuesday.

The Department of Parks and Recreation has solicited bids from the nonprofits and has not received proposals regarding the 11 parks, parks department spokesman Roy Stearns said.

"There are another 24 parks where partnership negotiations are in progress with cities, counties, nonprofits and others and there is a strong likelihood that many of these will remain open," Stearns said Tuesday.

The Marin State Parks Association and its subgroups, Friends of China Camp and The Olompali People, submitted a letter of intent to the Department of Parks and Recreation last week expressing interest in operating the two parks.

"Plans are in the early development stage but already generating much excitement," Assemblyman Jared Huffman's spokesman Dan Okenfuss said Wednesday.

Huffman's Assembly Bill 42 authorized nonprofits to enter operating agreements with the state parks department.

The Marin Community Foundation has pledged to match up to $40,000 in donations collected over the next 30 days. The California State Parks Foundation has made a $20,000 challenge grant to kick off fundraising efforts and the Marin Chinese Cultural Association has committed $10,000.

"With close to $100,000 on hand, and plans to generate more funds through fundraisers and a state of the art user fee collection system, Friends of China Camp is showing the willingness and capacity to manage the park," Marin Community Foundation president Dr. Thomas Peters said.

The letter of intent from Marin State Parks Alliance includes plans to operate Olompali State Historic Park through The Olompali People.

"I am encouraged to see steady progress in our efforts to save all California state parks," Huffman said. "This local effort to save China Camp and Olompali is off to an excellent start, and I am committed to ensuring its success," Huffman said.

Friends of China Camp's membership has grown from 25 to more than 300 in the past few months, its chair Ernest Chung said.

Marin State Parks Association Superintendent Danita Rodriguez said discussions are underway to determine staffing and operating plans to ensure park viability at China Camp and Olompali state parks.

Bay City News Service


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