The group is hoping to take advantage of AB 42, legislation signed into law and authored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Huffman’s bill authorizes the state Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into agreements with nonprofit organizations to operate state parks that would have otherwise been closed.
“We are making progress,” said Kentfield resident Ernest Chung, chairman of Friends of China Camp.
The group has raised $100,000 over the past few months. It will need another $240,000 to operate China Camp, while $50,000 will be needed to run Olompali for a year. China Camp is near San Rafael and Olompali north of Novato.
“The community has really stepped forward,” Chung said, noting association membership has grown from 25 to 300 during its campaign. “We are cautiously optimistic.”
The Marin State Parks Association’s letter of intent — sent last week — went to Danita Rodriguez, superintendent of Marin’s state parks. Rodriguez reviewed the letter and sent it to headquarters in Sacramento with her stamp of approval.
The next step will be for the association to submit a proposal on how the parks would be operated.
“We are very encouraged,” Rodriguez said, adding the nonprofit would pay state parks workers to operate the locations. “But it still will be a task. There will have to be more fundraising, but we are working with them and supporting them to help make them successful.”
In Marin, four of six state parks have been faced with closure. In addition to China Camp and Olompali, Samuel P. Taylor and Tomales Bay state parks have been targeted to shut down July 1 as part of a $22 million cut to the state budget. Angel Island and Mount Tamalpais state parks were spared.
Recent deals with federal officials — which operate adjacent lands — will keep Samuel P. Taylor and Tomales Bay state parks open, but there are no such deals yet or China Camp and Olompali.
Of California’s 278 state parks, 70 are slated to be closed this summer. Huffman was pleased to see his bill is being used locally.
“This is how it was envisioned and it’s exciting that community groups are using this, not only in Marin but around the state,” said Huffman, who knew of 15 other similar efforts. “China Camp and Olompali are making great progress, but it’s not quite there yet. There is more work to be done. It’s not ‘mission accomplished.’