No doubt when you look at the photo to the right, the first place that comes to mind is Turlock, CA.
No? Me neither! Yet there it is out in the middle of nowhere: Turlock Lake State Recrea-tion Area. A clear blue lake, a shaded picnic ground and a pristine beach was inhabited on this day by no one except three pair of Canadian Geese and their offspring. And me.
Turlock Lake is the second of four San Joaquin Valley recreation areas on the closure list. After my initial surprise at finding this lovely spot out in the middle of sun scorched pasture lands, my second thought was, "What a shame this is closing." Cali-fornia's central valley and its infamous triple digit summer heat can use all the swim-ming holes it can get. This certainly qualified as more than a little swimming hole!
The park has twenty-six miles of shoreline and foothill country. Turlock Lake is on the south side. On the north side - just across the road - is the lower end of the Tuolumne River, with sixty-six campsites and put-ins for kayakers. Although less than a mile away, the terrain at the campsite is marshier and shaded, strikingly different from the lake area. A short, blackberry brambly hike along the river bank is accessible at the campground.
The fate of Turlock Lake is in the reluctant hands of the Turlock Irrigation District, (TID). TID owns the 3,500-acre park and stores part of its Tuolumne River water supply in it. They have been leasing it to California Parks and Recreation since 1950. The district has been reviewing submitted proposals, which include hiring a subcontractor to operate the park.
So! What to do? TID is under no legal obligation to keep the area open for recreation. But closing the facility would cost $345,000 in the first year – $260,000 for security fencing – and $80,000 or more annually to pay for basic maintenance and security.
Or, they could assume operations of the park for about $170,000 a year, plus approximately $278,000 in start-up costs. The state will likely take the picnic tables, signs and maintenance equipment so that would all need to be replaced, as well as maintaining existing structures.
Yet another option would be for TID to subsidize the state parks' continued operation of the lake. That would cost between $160,000 and $180,000 annually, with a miniscule rate hike for TID customers, but the park would likely still see reductions in service.
What a headache! Aren't State Parks supposed to be places where we can go to clear out the spaces between our ears and get away from all these yucky hassles? I suspect that even those parks on the closure list that are remaining open have had to jump through some pretty interesting legal and monetary hoops.
For the moment, I did let the wind blow away my troubles. I sat at a table and watched as the three pair of Geese parents hustled their goslings down to the water. Something had spooked them. The Buzzard on the fence post seemed curious as well.
TID was open to exploring any number of options and partnerships. At this writing I cannot find any information that indicates success, and barring an eleventh hour solution, this suprisingly lovely park will be closing.
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