Adeline and Walt Holmtren have been visiting the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea for more than 50 years. A couple times each month since the early 1960s they drive their camper from their home in Aguanga in Riverside County to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area and camp for a couple of nights at the Salt Creek campground.
According to a report in the U-T of San Diego, it is an odd place. The Salton Sea is Californias’ largest lake and its surface elevation is about 230 feet below sea level, making it one of the lowest places on Earth. Millions of birds use the sea each winter. There is a particular smell, not always pleasant, but people get used to it quickly, they say.
“It’s a unique place,” said Adeline, 70. “There isn’t anything like it.”
But that may well all end this summer.
The recreation area is a 14-mile-long shoreline state park that, despite millions of dollars in improvements in the past decade, is scheduled to be permanently closed June 30.
One of the original 70 state parks targeted by Sacramento for closure last year because of the state’s budget mess, the area is far from self-supporting. Camping fees and day-use payments bring in only about $100,000 a year while the budget to keep it operating has been around $1.2 million. A proposal that would severely reduce staffing and other costs in hopes of keeping it open has been proffered.
Many of the parks around the state, like Palomar State Park in North County, have since been saved, or are about to be, thanks to partnerships formed with nonprofit citizen groups that promise to keep the parks open by covering any budget shortfalls.
But no such arrangement has come close at the Salton Sea and with just a couple months before the deadline, supporters are growing desperate.
They need someone to step forward. They need money. And they need it fast.
“We just haven’t been able to access the public the way we would like to be able to do so,” said Bill Meister, president of the Sea and Desert Interpretive Association, which runs the visitor center and park store and is leading the charge. He said that for nine months the association has been trying to generate interest in saving the park. They’ve contacted local and state representatives “but really haven’t had any response from them.”
“It’s going to be very tough,” Meister said. “It’s going to be a close call.”
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