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Friends of Caswell State Park?
Mantecans trying to organize volunteer group
A visitor enjoys the natural setting of Caswell State Park. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
When Thomas Parker and wife Shirley Lee went to Caswell State Memorial Park Thursday for a walk, they did not see any park ranger on duty. But they ran across a number of park visitors.

They tried to crunch the numbers, multiplying by $8 the number of people that they saw, and came up with a total of about $70 to $80 that would have been collected at the park entrance. And that’s just within the half-hour period that they were there, Lee said.

But there was no one inside the kiosk at the entrance to make sure everyone paid the fees for day use or for camping which costs more. A sign at the gate simply gives instructions for visitors to fill out the form and enclose the required fees, using the honor system.

The Manteca couple believes there should be somebody there at all times to make sure fees are paid to help maintain and preserve the historic park.

“Usually they have a ranger driving a state-owned car, but today we didn’t see any at all. But we saw a lot of visitors,” said Lee.

She and her husband said they would hate to see the park get included “in the chopping block,” referring to the news that they have been hearing about the proposed closure of several state parks as California struggles with a $27 billion budget deficit.

This week, the couple let their fingers do the talking and do something about saving Caswell from possible closure by forming a volunteer group to help maintain the park. They went online to do their initial research and made phone calls.

“I called the Central Valley District of the state parks and they told me to talk to Bill Lutton. He is the superintendent of the Central Valley and he’s working in Turlock. We called him two or three times and left messages for him but he hasn’t called us back. They told me he’s the right person that we should be talking to,” said Lee.

She said they want to talk to Lutton and find out what they need to do to form a volunteer group and how to go about it.

In the past six years, Caswell State Memorial Park has become a part of the former Manteca business owners’ lives. Several times a week, they drive to this pristine woodland in the heart of the Central Valley along the banks of the Stanislaus River and walk along the trails as part of their daily exercise regimen.

But that is not the only reason why the couple is attracted to this rich riparian habitat that is barely six miles south of the city of Manteca.

“When you go to this park, you can forget all about your frustrations. Here you can see how beautiful nature is. You can put yourself in perspective with nature and you’re just smaller than a grain of sand,” said Lee waxing poetic.

“We always look forward going to the park. When we come back (home), we feel so calm. Tom is writing a lot these days. When he goes there and then comes back, he’s inspired by nature – the beautiful trees, the old trees. We just love it! You go there and you get inspiration; you forget about little things,” added Lee.

The Bulletin made a phone call Thursday to Lutton at his office in Turlock but no one was there to answer the phone. A message left at his voice mail was not returned as of press time.

Anyone interested in joining the couple in establishing a volunteer group for Caswell Park can send them an e-mail at