----A controversial plan to add new campgrounds to the Auburn State Recreation Area passed unanimously by state park commissioners Thursday, even as people who live in the area voiced their concerns over the increased wildfire risk.
John Michelini is board president of the Foresthill Fire Protection District and has been a vocal opponent to the expansion plan. His Foresthill home has a back deck overlooking the Auburn State Recreation Area.
“There’s homes on that hillside,” Michelini said as he looked out at the state park. “Just over the hill, where the trees are in the sun, is where the Trailhead Fire started.”
In this peaceful landscape pairing homes and wildlife, wildfire concern is now higher than ever.
“Fires occurring in the Auburn State Recreation Area aren’t a matter of inconvenience for these people, it’s a matter of life and death,” Michelini said.
The state’s Park and Recreation Commission unanimously approved a general plan to allow for an increase in the number of campsites there from 36 to 178, along with new trails and parking lots.
Michelini says he now questions whether the state is truly concerned about wildfire danger.
“Are they?” Michelini said. “I mean, it’s one thing to say you’re concerned about wildfires and it’s another thing to actually do something about it.”
Alexandra Stehl is the planning chief for California State Parks. “We take it very seriously,” Stehl said.
Stehl said adding more legal campsites to the popular getaway will equal less illegal camping—a much higher fire risk. “So if we don’t provide the camping that people are looking for, we increase the risk of them finding their own camping areas,” Stehl said.
The potential for more visitors is also adding to concerns of overcrowded evacuation routes in case of a wildfire. The Foresthill Bridge became blocked during the Bridge Fire in early September.
“Foresthill Road is the main escape route for 7,000 people who live in the Foresthill community,” Michelini said.
People who live alongside the Auburn State Recreation Area are seeking a sense of safety as the state moves forward with big expansion plans.
“We understand that there is some trust that we need to rebuild with the community,” Stehl said.
Thirty people spoke ahead of the vote Thursday. All were opposed to this plan.
There is no timetable when the state may seek funding to build the new campsites.
CLICK HERE for original article at CBS Local News.
California State Park and Recreation Commission Approves General Plan for Auburn State Recreation Area
At a virtual public meeting today, the California State Park and Recreation Commission voted to rename a state park to honor the place name used by the Yurok people since time immemorial and adopted a long-range management plan for Auburn State Recreation Area (SRA).
The California State Parks and Recreation Commission also voted unanimously to adopt a general plan for Auburn State Recreation Area. This proposal provides long-term management direction for the 30,000-acre state recreation area located in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Sacramento.
“California State Parks is committed to protecting the communities surrounding Auburn State Recreation Area, implementing actions and decisions to mitigate wildfire risks in partnership with CAL FIRE, and providing a public engagement process,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “Collectively we will be preserving natural and cultural resources in this popular recreational area and protecting public safety.”
Auburn SRA has seen an increase of 300,000 visitors in 1995 to more than a million visitors today, despite the lack of developed recreation facilities. Regional population growth is anticipated to continue to grow by 30% by 2040, which will increase the problems of lack of parking, unsafe parking practices, unauthorized camping, difficulty for first responders getting in and out of the SRA, wildfire risk and other unauthorized uses that damage resources.
It is important to point out that the general plan does not authorize immediate construction of any new facility. Individual facilities would require site-specific planning, public involvement, and environmental review. Facilities would be developed over time in response to demand, resources, and other considerations. The preliminary general plan identifies specific requirements for this future facility development including fuel reduction around new facilities, ensuring adequate ingress/egress, evacuation planning, coordinating with fire agencies, public involvement and specific to any proposed camping facility, evaluation of whether campfire use should be allowed at all.
The California State Park and Recreation Commission was created as the State Park Commission in 1927. The Commission has specific authorities and responsibilities which are defined in California law. Nine voting commissioners are appointed to staggered four-year terms. The governor appoints the voting members of the Commission; these appointments require Senate confirmation. The Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee each appoint one non-voting ex-officio member to the Commission.'
CLICK HERE for the original text of the California State Parks Press Release