Thursday, May 31, 2012


McConnell State Recreation Area is the third of four San Joaquin Valley rec-parks on the closure list. Surrounded by vineyards and almond orchards, the park is located south of Turlock on the banks of the Merced River, offering picnicking, camping, fishing and swimming.

In early winter, the East Merced Resource Conser-vation District was notified that they had until March 31 to raise $64,000 to keep both Mconnell SRA and neighbor-ing Hatfield SRA open for another year.

The deadline for fund raising was extended, and last week it was announced that enough money from a variety of sources was raised to temporarily keep the parks open. Hurray!

Last February Deidre Kelsey, District 4 Supervisor for Merced County, gave $2,500 of her special district funds as seed money for the Save Our River Parks group. Additional funds include $5,000 from the city of Newman, a $10,000 special district fund loan from Merced County and $20,000 from the State Parks Foundation. Several small donations from $20 to $100 also helped the group reach its goal. Double Hurray!

I parked my car at the shaded end of the campgrounds, where the campsites from the previous weekend still had their "Reserved" signs posted, a good indication that the park was still having decent attendance. A well maintained picnic area, a small outdoor amphitheatre and a marshy area loaded with birds - especially Woodpeckers - was nearby.

Additional picnic tables are scattered along the riverbank. Living in the Sierra Foothills, I am used to icy, snow-melt water temperatures even in late sum-mer. I stuck my foot into the Merced River and found it delightfully temper-ate. Except for inflatables and floaties, it is not suited for boating though. There are no boat ramps and it is shallow, especially in this drought year. Swimming, splashing and fishing for catfish, black bass and perch are the preferred activities here on the Merced.

It was high noon and I decided to stake out a table and have my lunch before heading down the road to check out Hatfield SRA. But, it seems this was the time the sprinklers were set to come on and water the lawn and picnic tables. At noon?

California's water history is a cyclical one of flood and drought. The San Joaquin valley has long grown large portions of our food crops. Water comes to much of the valley by way of aqueducts and reservoirs as there are few natural large bodies of water in this part of the state. Combine that with the central valley's triple digit summer heat, and water conser-vation has long been an issue. Those of us who have lived through many a drought year know that watering should be done in the morning or evening, not at noon!

My agitation was increased when I found a leaky hose dripping water at its connection. In my opinion, gold is not California's most precious resource, water is.

Well, nonetheless I'm glad the park is staying open. As Supervisor Kelsey said, "Keeping the parks open not only promotes recreation, but also prevents the isolated areas from becoming havens for criminals."

So, if they can just get a couple of new hose connections and reset the sprinkler timers, my feeling of happiness will be upgraded to one of being thrilled!

I hope to see you at the State Parks.


This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.

Alvin David Dick
April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012

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