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State Parks increases fees; Local rec areas’ future still uncertain

POSTED April 24, 2012 10:16 p.m.

The fate of Turlock’s area State Parks remains uncertain, but the cost to attend the surviving State Parks will increase.

Effective May 1, vehicle day use annual passes will increase from $125 to $195. Golden Poppy vehicle day use passes – not valid at high-demand or locally operated parks – will rise from $90 to $125. Boat use passes will climb from $75 to $100. And limited use Golden Bear passes, for senior citizens, will double from $10 to $20.

The price increase marks the first since 2009, when day use rates were increased but passes remained flat. The increase brings annual passes more in line with their pre-2009 standard, costing an equivalent of between 12-15 visits.

Day use and camping fees will remain unchanged.

The rate change is expected to generate between $1 and $1.5 million for the State Parks system. The funding is expected to mitigate cutbacks at parks which will remain open, but will not prevent the closure of 70 parks selected from the system’s 270.

All three of Turlock’s local state parks – Turlock Lake, McConnell, and George J. Hatfield State Recreation Areas – are among those slated to be closed.

Turlock Lake SRA’s fate will likely be known next week. The Turlock Irrigation District, which owns the reservoir, is currently soliciting proposals from groups interested in operating the recreation area once State Parks departs. Those proposals are due Friday, with a TID Board discussion of the issue expected on Tuesday.

McConnell and Hatfield’s future remains more uncertain. A community group striving to raise the $64,000 needed to keep the parks open remains short of their goal, but are hopeful of a last-minute reprieve.

“We definitely don’t have enough in the bank right now, but we’ve got a few things out we’re waiting to hear back on in the next day or two,” organizer Cindy Lashbrook said.

The Merced County Board of Supervisors is set to discuss saving McConnell and Hatfield SRAs on May 8 – after the April 30 state-imposed deadline to raise funding. According to Lashbrook, Merced supervisors hope State Sen. Anthony Cannella (R – Ceres) might be able to exert some last-minute influence to save the parks.

But Lashbrook still hopes the needed $64,000 will materialize – an amount which appeared insignificant as she started fundraising, but has remained an insurmountable hurdle thus far.

“I didn’t think it’d be this dang hard,” Lashbrook said.

To donate, write checks to East Merced Resource Conservation District with “Save the Parks” in the memo line, and mail to EMRCD, 2135 Wardrobe Ave., Suite C, Merced, CA 95341 or visit emrcd.org/save-mcconnell-and-hatfield-state-parks

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