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Public lands may go off-limits

State cost-cutting ideas include closing Marshall gold discovery site
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut state park funding by $70 million could mean closure of Coloma’s Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park but the Auburn State Recreation Area adjacent to Auburn would stay open. The Schwarzenegger plan would also mean a savings of $143.4 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Sheryl Watson, California State Parks spokeswoman, said the Auburn State Recreation Area would be among 59 parks to stay open. The list of 220 that would close includes the site of the James Marshall gold discovery in January 1848 that touched off the California Gold Rush. The park is in Coloma, 17 miles southeast of Auburn along Highway 49. Legislators are now discussing the governor’s proposal as part of ongoing budget talks aimed at closing a $24 billion deficit looming over the next 12 months. Among the high-profile parks listed by the state for closure are Fort Ross State Historic Park, Bodie State Historic Park and Big Basin Redwoods. Watson said the Auburn State Recreation Area would remain open because its funding comes from boating gas taxes and other government reimbursements rather than from the state general fund. The Mammoth Bar Off-Highway Vehicle area would also remain open because it’s considered part of the recreation area, Watson said. While the recreation area, which covers 40 miles of the North and Middle forks of the American River, would continue providing outdoor opportunities. Superintendent Mike Lynch said parks employees could also have some responsibilities keeping an eye on a closed Marshall park. Sacramento’s Rick Pierce was at the confluence in the state recreation area this week for a mountain-bike ride. He’s happy to see the Auburn-area park left off the state’s hit list. “I’m pretty excited about it, obviously,” Pierce said. “This is a cool place to ride. But it’s also a multi-use area that benefits others, like equestrians and hikers.” Sacramento’s Whitney Anderson said she’d be disappointed by an Auburn State Recreation Area closure. She too is a mountain biker who enjoys the Auburn trails. “But I can’t see how they’re going to regulate it if they do shut it down,” she said. Watson said park doors and gates would be locked but some of the parks are so large that there’s a concern about what will happen to the sites. “We would like people to leave only their footprints,” she said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.