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Caswell State Parks future still uncertain
Marlon Baldovino and J.R. Guererro set up their tents before a weekend of camping at Caswell Memorial State Park. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
RIPON – It’s a crowned jewel consisting of 258 acres that weave along the Stanislaus River and offer boundless recreational opportunities for those looking to take advantage of the great outdoors.

How long local residents will be able to take advantage of assets like Caswell Memorial State Park in Ripon is still up in the air – a byproduct of California’s budget crisis that at one time had more than 200 parks pegged for closure in a cost-cutting measure.

While a last minute budget agreement spared the majority of those pegged to be closed, a handful – including the California Capital State Park in Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento, and Empire Mine State Park in Nevada City (which gives guests a glimpse inside of what was once a working gold mine) – the future of other parks are still at the mercy of California’s ever expanding budget deficit.

News that Caswell – which has become a favorite destination for valley locals and draws visitors from throughout Northern California and some from outside of the country – isn’t safe from the ax coming from the Sacramento budget deal didn’t sit well with some of the guests who arrived early for the popular summer weekend activities.

“I’m a big fan of the river of the shady trees and what it brings to the park,” said San Jose native Marlon Baldovino. “I’ve been coming here for the last two years, and we always have a good time when we’re visiting the park – it would be a shame to see it locked up.”

The series of narrow curving roads that wrap through the park – connecting the campsites to one-another and extending out towards the day-use area that is extremely popular with rafters and guests that like the slow moving current that the natural beaches provide – get more than their fair share of use during the summer months when the mercury in the Central Valley can easily top the century mark.

According to Park Host Al – who will spend six months with his wife Rhonda providing oversight to the popular destination – the weekend camping sites are almost always full in advance and leads to a lively weekend gathering of friends and strangers who appreciated the rugged terrain that is located just outside of Ripon and only a stone’s throw away from metropolitan areas like Modesto.

With the uncertain future still lingering, Al hopes that Caswell is one of those that is spared because of its unique layout along the banks of the Stanislaus River and the opportunities it affords families that appreciate the dense groves that encompass the area.

“We get people from as far away as Europe that enjoy themselves when they get here – it’s a perfect spot when they’re traveling from the Bay Area on their way up to places like Yosemite and other Sierra destinations,” he said. “Hopefully this is something that’s going to be around for a while because it’ll only take a year with that gate closed before these roadways are completely grown over.

“And that’ll pretty much mark the end of what this has come to mean to so many people.”