Reporting from Henry W. Coe State Park—
Solitude is what draws visitors to this 136-square-mile preserve, where golden-hued hills dotted with oak trees rise to steep ridges thick with chaparral.
At one of California’s least-known state parks, hikers, backpackers and mountain bikers roam more than 200 miles of trails through a vast backcountry of canyons, creeks and woodlands less than an hour’s drive from Silicon Valley.
But this year, that seclusion has threatened Henry W. Coe State Park; light visitation and low revenues have made California’s second-largest park a target in the state’s budget battles.
PHOTOS: State parks threatened with closure
In May, California officials announced plans to close this rugged expanse and 69 other state parks by next summer to save $22 million, leaving volunteer groups scrambling to raise funds and forge agreements to keep them open.
Shutting down one-quarter of its park system, a move long threatened but never carried out in the state’s history, has exposed a maze of obstacles and complications.
Park boosters around the state say abandoning the properties creates logistical headaches that could undermine the small savings the plan will bring, so they are working feverishly to keep them as accessible as possible.
For state parks officials, nearly everything is on the table: turning their operation over to local governments, nonprofits and concessionaires and seeking corporate sponsorships and wealthy benefactors.
But as the stewards of campgrounds, beaches, monuments, redwood forests and nature preserves and across California are finding out, closing a park is easier said than done.
At some historic sites, like the Whittier adobe home of Pío Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule, and the Glen Ellen ranch of author Jack London, officials will be able to padlock the properties, pack up artifacts and store them in warehouses in Sacramento.
Other parks pose more of a quandary.
How, for instance, will the state gate off a 20-mile stretch of the South Yuba River? And what does it mean to close state beaches at Monterey Bay and Big Sur when California’s stringent Coastal Act prohibits cutting off public access?