Russian Gulch State Park to remain open!

My email recently delivered some great news: thanks in large part to the Mendocino Area Parks Association, Russian Gulch State Park will remain open!

Russian Gulch ©2011 Stephanie Benedict. Oil on board, 6" x 8"
Russian Gulch ©2011 Stephanie Benedict. Oil on board, 6″ x 8″

Russian Gulch is one of my favorite state parks along the Mendocino coast. It’s located just north of the village of Caspar, and south of Fort Bragg. I’ve painted there a number of times, mostly without much success—the colors are subtle and, at the time, were beyond my grasp.

Why live in California if you can’t visit the parks?

The closure of California’s state parks is, to my mind, a travesty. I think people here don’t appreciate what they have—open space where they can visit, camp, walk (even paint!), get away from the city’s noise and concrete. I lived in Massachusetts for several years and, while I love New England, I also realized that there are very few parks there. Even the coast there is typically private property. California’s parks, by contrast, may be crowded on holiday weekends, but they also offer places where nature can thrive and people can remember what the land was like before the asphalt took it over.

I know we have budget problems in this state. I welcome a discussion of the role of government. But do we have to pit parks against support for the frail elderly or against schools? We need them all. When parks started charging entrance fees under the name of “user fees,” I didn’t like them because, if you can’t afford the user fee, you are also excluded from that public space. But compared to permanent closure, that $5 or $10 entrance fee seems like a small price to pay. For once the parks are closed, the next step is selling the property.

Hurray for the people saving some of the parks!

So I’m really glad that several of the parks have been removed from the closure list, to be operated by non-profits or other groups. Here’s what you can do to help: