State Parks, Reclamation ink Auburn State Recreation Area partnership pact

Signing ceremony marks end of three years of uncertainty for wilderness canyon below Auburn
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Uncertainty gave way to celebration Tuesday as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California State Parks marked the signing of a 25-year partnership pact to maintain operations in the 30,000-acre Auburn State Recreation Area. The long-term agreement, which also covers more than 20,000 acres in the Folsom State Recreation Area, means State Parks will continue to manage law enforcement and visitor services in the two areas. The Bureau of Reclamation hammered out an agreement with State Parks that requires all revenue generated by recreation and other operations to be applied directly to the management of the two recreations areas. In turn, the bureau will provide federal appropriations “as available” for half of any operational deficit up to a ceiling of $2.5 million annually. In a sign of goodwill, the state and federal agencies are pledging to continue to work together to minimize or eliminate deficits through continuous collaboration and efficient business planning. The collaboration was forced by a groundswell of local concern over possible Bureau of Reclamation cutbacks that would have forced closure of access roads and the potential elimination of a State Parks presence in the Auburn State Recreation Area because of lack of funding. Leaders in the effort to maintain recreation-area operational levels were out in full force Tuesday at the Canyon View Community Center to praise the new cooperative effort. The group included Congressmen Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Tom McClintock, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Regional Director Don Glaser and State Parks’ Director Ruth Coleman. Coleman said that the two areas attract more than 3 million visitors annually and that translates into $68 million in spending. For visitors, the recreation areas are nearby doors to a wilderness experience, she said. “It’s why Californians want to live here,” Coleman said. “If we hadn’t worked together, we might have lost this.” Glaser, whose regional office is based out of Sacramento, praised local residents for their persistence. “They told us this is a resource worth protecting,” Glaser said. While the Auburn State Recreation Area lands are still authorized by Congress as a future site for a dam, Glazer said the pact will provide for public use until work starts again. Authorized in 1965, the Auburn dam project has been stalled for more than 30 years and has a recent estimated price tag of $10 billion. McClintock, R-Elk Grove, also brought up the potential for the recreation area as a dam location. “Until then, today’s announcement means the public will retain access to public lands,” McClintock said. Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes, one of the local leaders in the drive to retain a State Parks presence, said support was quickly mobilized when it was apparent Lake Clementine recreation – and then Auburn State Recreation Area operations, were threatened. Holmes expressed the hope that the agreement signaled the renewal of long-term planning for the recreation area. Tim Woodall, president of Protect American River Canyons, said his group congratulated the bureau and State Parks for the agreement, but also was hoping long-term planning would follow. “We certainly hope this agreement will mean a significant change in resource management to an approach that will encourage and facilitate recreational use of the Auburn State Recreation Area,” Woodall said.