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Caswell State Park: Closing soon?

$24B state budget deficit hitting state parks hard

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Caswell State Park: Closing soon?

Hundreds of people enjoy Caswell State Park's beaches along the Stanislaus River on summer weekends.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED May 29, 2009 1:47 a.m.
RIPON – Splashing on the bank of Caswell Memorial State Park was a perfect way for Steve Barrera and his two children to beat the heat on Thursday afternoon.

With the mercury approaching triple digits, the Manteca father passed on the idea of hitting a friend’s swimming pool to take his two children to play in the water at one of the Central Valley’s hidden gems – enjoying Caswell’s shady groves along the banks of the Stanislaus River at the end of Austin Road.

But whether it’s something he’ll be able to do for the rest of the summer has yet to be determined.

The pending decision by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that would possibly shutter more than 200 State parks in California could mean that Caswell – which tends to get busiest at this time of year and remain steady throughout the summer – could soon be off-limits to visitors.

“It’s a nice place right here in our backyard, and I’d hate to see it go,” Barrera said. “It’s a good place for families, and it’s nice not to have to drive up to the mountains to have this kind of an experience.

“I hope it’s something that stays around.”

A phone call to the California Department of Parks and Recreation was not immediately returned.

According to Ripon Police Chief Richard Bull – who has officers that patrol the river bottoms throughout town – the department already provides regular back-up during the busy summer months, and the talk of possible closures has prompted some officers to inquire with state officials about the status of the park.

Nothing that has been relayed to the department, he says, has been final – leaving them in a holding pattern like everybody else.

“We had heard that was a possibility with the budget situation the way that it is, and right now we’re just waiting to find out what the final word is,” Bull said. “It’s a park that gets very busy during the summer months, and that’s a very popular access spot.”

One park ranger is currently assigned to monitor the day use and overnight camping at Caswell – with Ripon Police responding to calls for assistance if something gets out of hand.

Whether the police department would be able to step up and help out with some of the necessary patrols, Bull said, is something that has yet to be seen. Ripon is also facing a budget crunch, and civic leaders have tried everything possible to not have to lay off additional workers.

Some of the parks being considered for closure include popular San Francisco Bay destination Angel Island – which was ravaged by a fire last year – and the Hearst Castle at San Simeon along the Central California Coast.

The decision from the governor could come as soon as next month as California prepares to pass the 2009-10 state budget while dealing with a projected $24 billion deficit.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan is to cut all general fund assistance - $140 million – to the state parks budget. That translates into 80 percent or about 220 of 279 parks being closed statewide.
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