Public access to the Mill Creek Addition won’t be lost after all, thanks to a decision made Wednesday at the board meeting of the Redwood Parks Association.
The Mill Creek Addition was the only local parkland at risk of closure due to state budget cuts.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation issued a list of 70 parks slated for closure after being asked to slice $22 million from its budget.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, which includes the Mill Creek Addition, was on the list, but Redwood National and State Parks agreed to step in to prevent closure by performing maintenance on the main trails and operating the Mill Creek Campground (a separate area from the Mill Creek Addition).
Similar agreements with non-profits, local governments and others have allowed 65 of the 70 parks to remain open at least temporarily after a closure deadline that had been set for Sunday.
“We’re confident we’ll be able to pull this off because this community is committed to keeping access available and open to the public,” said Martha McClure, a Del Norte County supervisor and board president of the Redwood Parks Association (RPA).
The details have yet to be hammered out regarding how RPA will carry out its decision to preserve weekend access to the Mill Creek Addition for at least another year, but it is committed to making it happen.
McClure suggested that partnering with Del Norte County or other entities could be useful to perform some operations.
There was close to an hour of discussion before the RPA board made its decision. The meeting was attended by state parks officials and Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the Save the Redwoods League, which was a key agency in the acquisition of the Mill Creek Addition and helped figure out a way to keep the area open to the public.
“We’re really encouraged to work with the local community and protect it from closure for another year,” Hartley said, adding that its encouraging to have a local organization like RPA lead the effort. “Our assessment is that if you shut the gates it’s much more difficult to reopen the park than to keep it going.”
Keeping the Mill Creek Addition open was one of four projects Save the Redwoods League pursued in response to the state’s announcement of parks closure.
The League also helped facilitate a deal to keep Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park open in Humboldt County.
Since the Mill Creek acquisition, millions of dollars of restoration work has been completed there to bring the logged area back to natural conditions.
Restoration efforts would have continued either way since those projects are already funded from sources outside the parks budget.
Forty of the 70 parks that were scheduled to close have already reached agreements to keep them open, and another 25 had deals in the works.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.