Our View: National park has come to the rescue

By Triplicate Staff October 10, 2011 05:58 pm

If you ever wondered about the confusing patchwork of state and national parkland that contains much of Del Norte County’s old-growth redwoods and coastal trails, question it no longer.

Like the cavalry in an old Western, the National Park Service has literally come to the rescue of California State Parks.

As a result, Del Norters and visitors — about 94,000 annually — will retain access to thousands of acres of some of the finest natural resources on God’s green Earth.

In a cost-cutting move that frankly seems more punitive than economically efficient, the state has announced plans to close 70 parks. That included its fifth-largest, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park south of Crescent City.

Think of it: The state was looking to shut off access to 2,514 acres of the tallest trees in the world and 21 miles of hiking paths, including two stretches of the California Coastal Trail.

This would have taken away the exhilarating thousand-foot descent to the sea on Damnation Creek Trail, the chance to follow the Old Redwood Highway on the Last Chance Section of the Coastal Trail and some of Del Norte’s very best hiking trails surrounding Mill Creek Campground and along the Coastal Trail’s northern DeMartin Section.

An agreement announced Thursday by the NPS and state parks also ensures that the campground itself will reopen next Memorial Day weekend for its traditional season lasting through Labor Day. Unfortunately, access to other parts of the Mill Creek Watershed will still be cut off.

State and national parks officials have long cooperated in Del Norte County, sharing resources while still retaining their autonomy. It’s a complicated relationship, but also a highly functional one.

By stepping in to preserve the most vital features of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, the NPS is spreading itself thin. Services will be affected, maintenance deferred.

The NPS in general, and Redwood National Park Superintendent Steve Chaney in particular, deserve our praise and thanks.

In an era of political dysfunction, it’s inspiring to see government officials roll up their sleeves, tackle a challenge and succeed.

— Del Norte Triplicate