By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Newsom visits Stanislaus County for new state park dedication
newsom at dos rios
Gov. Gavin Newsom readies the ground to plant a Valley Oak Tree as part of Earth Day ceremonies at Dos Rios State Park — about 20 miles west of Turlock, near Grayson — on Monday April 22, 2024. - photo by Joe Cortez

MODESTO — In honor of Earth Day, Gov. Gavin Newsom was in rural Stanislaus County on Monday to dedicate California’s first new state park in nearly a decade.

Newsom, joined by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was at the 1,600-acre Dos Rios Ranch — about 20 miles west of Turlock, near Grayson — that will officially open as a state park on June 12 during State Parks Week.

“There’s no better way to spend Earth Day than celebrating California’s first new state park in nearly a decade,” said Newsom. “The Golden State’s natural beauty is unmatched and we’re laser-focused on ensuring every Californian can enjoy these spaces.

“And the benefits don’t just stop at recreation. This park is a key asset to fighting the climate crisis, home to the state’s largest floodplain restoration project. We’re not just protecting these spaces, we’re restoring them for future generations.”

The Dos Rios property is the largest public-private floodplain restoration project in California to restore habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife at the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers, according to California State Parks.

Located at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers, Dos Rios will be the state’s 281st state park and the first to open since Onyx Ranch State Vehicular Recreation Area (eastern Kern County) in November 2014. Patrons will be able to use Dos Rios for hiking and picnicking, with plans for swimming and boating in the future.

“Earth Day is always such a beautiful reminder that our planet is a shared space, and its health and future are dependent on our individual and communal commitment to restoration and regeneration,” said Siebel Newsom. “Being in the heart of the Golden State at the site of our new state park— a place designed through partnership — was such a fitting way to spend Earth Day.”

The restoration of Dos Rios was a 10-year, $40 million project from public and private sectors, led by the nonprofit River Partners.

The governor personally thanked former Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) for his role in the effort.

“When I was in the legislature, a major focal point of my work was floodplain restoration, which is essential to what you see here at this new state park, said Gray, who is running to unseat Rep. John Duarte (R-Hughson) this November. “Too often, the narrative around California water is the fish-versus-farmer argument, where you get people polarized on two sides of a subject and both don’t see the value of the other. I do see the value of all the above. I think the environment is important to protect. I think agriculture is important to protect.”

The Earth Day announcement came as Newsom unveiled targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions on natural lands. That plan sets out to reduce the risks of wildfires, increase forest cover and restore wetlands. He said the targets would move the state toward achieving its mandate of carbon neutrality — removing as many carbon emissions from the atmosphere as it emits — by 2045.

Also on hand Monday was civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

The 94-year-old Huerta, who gained national attention in the 1960s as the co-founder — along with Cesar Chavez — of the United Farmworkers Association, grew up in Stockton and shared memories of adventures in spaces such as Dos Rios.

“The Delta was so much a part of my growing up,” said Huerta. “We’d go out to the river to have dinner. … And, on weekends, you’d go to a picnic at the edge of the river. And, as young adults, after going clubbing, we’d end up at the river. We’d get a case of beer, some hot dogs and one of those little music boxes you could carry, and we’d party all night at the river until the wee hours of the morning. The river was so much a part of growing up. So, coming here is really like coming home.”

Another speaker who took the dais before the governor and first partner planted a Valley Oak Tree was Ali Manzo, a California State Parks interpreter.

Manzo, a native of French Camp who graduated from the University of the Pacific and Fresno State, told the audience how she has long felt a connection to the land, even before studying earth and environmental sciences.

“Back in 2015, long before Dos Rios was designated a state park, I volunteered here with the Tuolumne River Trust and River Partners,” said Manzo. “Little did I know that the saplings we planted would grow into some of the very trees that now provide shade and habitat within in this park. Walking through Dos Rios today, I feel an overwhelming sense of connection and continuity. Now, as I work here, I realize that Dos Rios is not just a park, it’s a community treasure that offers peace, adventure and a vital connection to nature.”

As part of the planning process, the official name and park classification of Dos Rios will be determined and approved by the California State Park and Recreation Commission soon.

Newsom, who spent his first day in office in Ceres and Grayson, was in Santa Nella less than three weeks ago to announce funding for a federal project to put solar panels on the water’s surface in the Delta-Mendota Canal. Apparently, the governor has a soft spot for the Central Valley.

“This isn’t fly-by country with me, I drive through,” said Newsom. “And when I say I drive through, it’s almost my weekly commute as I go up and down the state of California. I’ve been here well over 100 times as governor.

“I remember being challenged by expectation. People said, ‘Ah, you’re some kid from San Francisco; you don’t care about the Central Valley.’ … It’s not about an electoral map for me. It’s about morality. It’s about ethic. It’s about one California. We talk about one California for all, and we mean that sincerely.”