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Organizations Step Up in Attempt to Save Olompali

State historic park just north of Novato is to be closed by July 1 unless nonprofit or private funds can be raised.

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

China Camp State Park in eastern San Rafael and just north of Novato 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.

The state 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 state 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 Novato-based 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 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 under way to determine staffing and operating plans to ensure park viability at China Camp and Olompali parks.

— Bay City News Service                

Maggie April 02, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Wonderful article! Olompali is such a gem, and so peaceful. I hope more Marin residents will step up to defend our parks by joining The Olompali People, and Friends of China Camp. Oour state parks need your help right away! The closure date is less than four months away! Our state parks are treasures that must be preserved and enhanced for future generations. Assemblymember Jared Huffman is leading efforts to prevent the proposed closure of up to 70 state parks. This year he has authored AB 1589, the bipartisan California State Parks Stewardship Act of 2012, to prevent park closures and ensure long-term funding and support for parks. Last week this bill passed its first hurdle with a unanimous vote! We need to let the governor know that the people support this effort! If you support Jared’s work to save and enhance our parks, sign the petition below to become a citizen co-sponsor! http://jaredhuffman.com/issues/parks/
Anne Moore April 02, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Had a great Sunday afternoon stroll among the buildings and then up the hill. Lots of irises out and even some paintbrush. Hardly anyone there! Terra Linda Anne

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