The plan defines long-term vision and outlines broad goals and guidelines for management of the Auburn State Recreation Area and provides the basis for developing future focused management plans, specific project plans and other goals.
The park is in need of a general plan, according to Jim Micheaels, senior park and recreation specialist for California State Parks, because the area’s last guiding document was an interim plan from 1992. “Because construction of Auburn Dam is on hold indefinitely, there’s a need for a long-range planning document for the Auburn State Recreation Area in its current condition, which is two river canyons,” Micheaels said.
Growth is also a factor. The state park has increased annual visitors from 300,000 in 1995 to more than 1 million visitors a year today.
Projects in the general plan include up to 142 additional campsites, new and expanded parking areas, day-use facilities and other recreational facilities. The projects in the documents are not an immediate reality for the state park; they still require their own planning and funding.
Despite the General Plan being up for final approval, many in the community, including fire officials, city of Auburn council members and local residents, still take issue with elements of the plan.
Local leaders from Foresthill Fire District, Georgetown Fire Protection District, El Dorado County Fire District, Auburn City Fire District and the Auburn Lake Trails Fire and Safety Improvement Council signed a letter stating they have “serious concerns regarding the additional threat of wildfire that will result from the proposed expansion of facilities.”
The letter went on to ask State Parks to implement all fire-related recommendations made by CAL FIRE in a 2019 letter in response to the general plan. The letter also asked that the fire fuel breaks in the Auburn State Recreation Area be updated at least every five years.
“Failure to maintain any of these fuel breaks at their recommended frequency would require the facilities in the vicinity of those areas to be closed to the public,” the letter stated.
Last week, Auburn Councilwoman Alice Dowdin Calvillo and Councilman Daniel Berlant wrote a letter to the commission addressing their concerns with the general plan.
“The department points to the Bureau of Reclamation’s recently approved Fire Management Plan as a means by which to address much of the associated fire risk,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately, the plan is not only woefully insufficient due to the low numbers of acres scheduled to be managed each year, it is not funded.”
Their letter asks for Auburn State Recreation Area to prohibit overnight camping in the Auburn Interface Management Zone (the area of the park closest to the city of Auburn) during fire season. They also asked for the campgrounds to be closed for all use on Red Flag Warning Days, when fire risk is the highest.
Also similar to the fire leadership’s requests, Dowdin Calvillo and Berlant asked for a requirement to work with local fire agencies. The letter stated State Parks should “not only coordinate with local fire agencies … when conducting planning efforts for new or expanded facilities within the Auburn State Recreation Area, but they be required to obtain fire agency approval on fire prevention efforts associated with such facilities.”
Dowdin Calvillo said she hopes the commission will revise the general plan to make adjustments.
“I really hope that they consider what we are saying and consider the risk we are facing,” Dowdin Calvillo said. “I tried to give them some realistic modifications. These are absolutely things they could do.”
Some community members feel a lack of trust in State Parks claims in the general plan.
“The bureaucrats at State Parks shouldn’t be the ones making the fire risk decisions, it should be CAL FIRE and the fire agencies,” said Curt Kruger, director of American River Community Coalition and an Auburn Lake Trails resident. “If they wanted to assuage the fire concerns, they would have put in the specific issues to address.”
Kruger and others from the American River Community Coalition met virtually with State Parks Director Armando Quintero on Monday, requesting the general plan be removed from the commission’s agenda Thursday. They did not get what they were looking for.
“I’m uncomfortable,” said Lorna Dobrovolny, who was a part of the virtual meeting. “Past practices tell us not to trust (State Parks).” Dobrovolny, a resident of Cool on the El Dorado County side of the canyon, said she doesn’t feel she and her neighbors are being listened to.
“We live here with the trash and the traffic this park has brought us,” she said. “They can’t control what they have. How can we expect more people to visit and feel safe?”
CLICK HERE to see the original article in Gold Country Media/Auburn Journal newspaper.